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The Greatest English Classic A Study of the King James Version of
the Bible and its Influence on Life and Literature

by Cleland Boyd McAfee

January, 1999  [Etext #1592]

Project Gutenberg Etext of Study of the King James Bible, McAfee
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THE lectures included in this volume were
prepared at the request of the Brooklyn
Institute of Arts and Sciences, and were delivered
in the early part of 1912, under its
auspices. They were suggested by the tercentenary
of the King James version of the Bible. The
plan adopted led to a restatement of the history
which prepared for the version, and of that which
produced it. It was natural next to point out its
principal characteristics as a piece of literature.
Two lectures followed, noting its influence on
literature and on history. The course closed with
a statement and argument regarding the place
of the Bible in the life of to-day.

The reception accorded the lectures at the time
of their public delivery, and the discussion which
ensued upon some of the points raised, encourage
the hope that they may be more widely useful.

It is a pleasure to assign to Dr. Franklin W.
Hooper, director of the Institute, whatever credit
the work may merit. Certainly it would not
have been undertaken without his kindly urgency.
                    CLELAND BOYD McAFEE.

 Brooklyn, New York, May, 1912.




THERE are three great Book-religions--
Judaism, Christianity, and Mohammedanism.
Other religions have their sacred writings,
but they do not hold them in the same regard as
do these three. Buddhism and Confucianism
count their books rather records of their faith
than rules for it, history rather than authoritative
sources of belief. The three great Book-religions
yield a measure of authority to their
sacred books which would be utterly foreign to
the thought of other faiths.

Yet among the three named are two very distinct
attitudes. To the Mohammedan the language
as well as the matter of the Koran is
sacred. He will not permit its translation. Its
original Arabic is the only authoritative tongue
in which it can speak. It has been translated
into other tongues, but always by adherents of
other faiths, never by its own believers. The
Hebrew and the Christian, on the other hand,
but notably the Christian, have persistently
sought to make their Bible speak all languages at
all times.

It is a curious fact that a Book written in one
tongue should have come to its largest power in
other languages than its own. The Bible means
more to-day in German and French and English
than it does in Hebrew and Chaldaic and Greek--
more even than it ever meant in those languages.
There is nothing just like that in literary history.
It is as though Shakespeare should after a while
become negligible for most readers in English,
and be a master of thought in Chinese and Hindustani,
or in some language yet unborn.

We owe this persistent effort to make the Bible
speak the language of the times to a conviction
that the particular language used is not the
great thing, that there is something in it which
gives it power and value in any tongue. No book
was ever translated so often. Men who have
known it in its earliest tongues have realized that
their fellows would not learn these earliest
tongues, and they have set out to make it speak
the tongue their fellows did know. Some have
protested that there is impiety in making it
speak the current tongue, and have insisted that
men should learn the earliest speech, or at least
accept their knowledge of the Book from those
who did know it. But they have never stopped
the movement. They have only delayed it.

The first movement to make the Scripture
speak the current tongue appeared nearly three
centuries before Christ. Most of the Old Testament
then existed in Hebrew. But the Jews had
scattered widely. Many had gathered in Egypt
where Alexander the Great had founded the city
that bears his name. At one time a third of the
population of the city was Jewish. Many of
the people were passionately loyal to their old
religion and its Sacred Book. But the current
tongue there and through most of the civilized
world was Greek, and not Hebrew. As always,
there were some who felt that the Book and its
original language were inseparable. Others revealed
the disposition of which we spoke a moment
ago, and set out to make the Book speak
the current tongue. For one hundred and fifty
years the work went on, and what we call the
Septuagint was completed. There is a pretty
little story which tells how the version got its
name, which means the Seventy--that King
Ptolemy Philadelphus, interested in collecting all
sacred books, gathered seventy Hebrew scholars,
sent them to the island of Pharos, shut them up
in seventy rooms for seventy days, each making
a translation from the Hebrew into the Greek.
When they came out, behold, their translations
were all exactly alike! Several difficulties appear
in that story, one of which is that seventy men
should have made the same mistakes without
depending on each other. In addition, it is not
historically supported, and the fact seems to be
that the Septuagint was a long and slow growth,
issuing from the impulse to make the Sacred
Book speak the familiar tongue. And, though
it was a Greek translation, it virtually displaced
the original, as the English Bible has virtually
displaced the Hebrew and Greek to-day. The
Septuagint was the Old Testament which Paul
used. Of one hundred and sixty-eight direct
quotations from the Old Testament in the New
nearly all are from the Greek version--from the
translation, and not from the original.

We owe still more to translation. While there
is accumulating evidence that there was spoken
in Palestine at that time a colloquial Greek, with
which most people would be familiar, it is yet
probable that our Lord spoke neither Greek
nor Hebrew currently, but Aramaic. He knew
the Hebrew Scriptures, of course, as any well-
trained lad did; but most of His words have come
down to us in translation. His name, for example,
to His Hebrew mother, was not Jesus, but
Joshua; and Jesus is the translation of the Hebrew
Joshua into Greek. We have His words as they
were translated by His disciples into the Greek,
in which the New Testament was originally written.

By the time the writing of the New Testament
was completed, say one hundred years after
Christ, while Greek was still current speech, the
Roman Empire was so dominant that the common
people were talking Latin almost as much
as Greek, and gradually, because political power
was behind it, the Latin gained on the Greek,
and became virtually the speech of the common
people. The movement to make the Bible talk
the language of the time appeared again. It is
impossible to say now when the first translations
into Latin were made. Certainly there were
some within two centuries after Christ, and by
250 A.D. a whole Bible in Latin was in circulation
in the Roman Empire. The translation
of the New Testament was from the Greek, of
course, but so was that of the Old Testament,
and the Latin versions of the Old Testament
were, therefore, translations of a translation.

There were so many of these versions, and
they were so unequal in value, that there was
natural demand for a Latin translation that
should be authoritative. So came into being
what we call the Vulgate, whose very name indicates
the desire to get the Bible into the vulgar
or common tongue. Jerome began by revising
the earlier Latin translations, but ended by going
back of all translations to the original Greek,
and back of the Septuagint to the original Hebrew
wherever he could do so. Fourteen years he
labored, settling himself in Bethlehem, in Palestine,
to do his work the better. Barely four
hundred years (404 A.D.) after the birth of
Christ his Latin version appeared. It met a
storm of protest for its effort to go back of
the Septuagint, so dominant had the translation
become. Jerome fought for it, and his version
won the day, and became the authoritative Latin
translation of the Bible.

For seven or eight centuries it held its sway
as the current version nearest to the tongue of
the people. Latin had become the accepted
tongue of the church. There was little general
culture, there was little general acquaintance
with the Bible except among the educated.
During all that time there was no real room for
a further translation. One of the writers[1] says:
"Medieval England was quite unripe for a Bible
in the mother tongue; while the illiterate majority
were in no condition to feel the want of
such a book, the educated minority would be
averse to so great and revolutionary a change."
When a man cannot read any writing it really
does not matter to him whether books are in
current speech or not, and the majority of the
people for those seven or eight centuries could
read nothing at all. Those who could read anything
were apt to be able to read the Latin.

[1] Hoare, Evolution of the English Bible, p. 39.

These centuries added to the conviction of
many that the Bible ought not to become too
common, that it should not be read by everybody,
that it required a certain amount of learning
to make it safe reading. They came to feel
that it is as important to have an authoritative
interpretation of the Bible as to have the Bible
itself. When the movement began to make it
speak the new English tongue, it provoked the
most violent opposition. Latin had been good
enough for a millennium; why cheapen the Bible
by a translation? There had grown up a feeling
that Jerome himself had been inspired. He had
been canonized, and half the references to him
in that time speak of him as the inspired translator.
Criticism of his version was counted as
impious and profane as criticisms of the original
text could possibly have been. It is one of the
ironies of history that the version for which
Jerome had to fight, and which was counted a
piece of impiety itself, actually became the
ground on which men stood when they fought
against another version, counting anything else
but this very version an impious intrusion!

How early the movement for an English Bible
began, it is impossible now to say. Certainly
just before 700 A.D., that first singer of the English
tongue, Caedmon, had learned to paraphrase
the Bible. We may recall the Venerable Bede's
charming story of him, and how he came by his
power of interpretation. Bede himself was a
child when Caedmon died, and the romance of
the story makes it one of the finest in our literature.
Caedmon was a peasant, a farm laborer
in Northumbria working on the lands of the great
Abbey at Whitby. Already he had passed middle
life, and no spark of genius had flashed in
him. He loved to go to the festive gatherings
and hear the others sing their improvised poems;
but, when the harp came around to him in due
course, he would leave the room, for be could not
sing. One night when he had slipped away
from the group in shame and had made his
rounds of the horses and cattle under his care,
he fell asleep in the stable building, and heard
a voice in his sleep bidding him sing. When he
declared he could not, the voice still bade him
sing. "What shall I sing?" he asked. "Sing
the first beginning of created things." And
the words came to him; and, still dreaming, he
sang his first hymn to the Creator. In the
morning he told his story, and the Lady Abbess
found that he had the divine gift. The monks
had but to translate to him bits of the Bible
out of the Latin, which he did not understand,
into his familiar Anglo-Saxon tongue, and he
would cast it into the rugged Saxon measures
which could be sung by the common people.
So far as we can tell, it was so, that the Bible
story became current in Anglo-Saxon speech.
Bede himself certainly put the Gospel of John
into Anglo-Saxon. At the Bodleian Library, at
Oxford, there is a manuscript of nearly twenty
thousand lines, the metrical version of the
Gospel and the Acts, done near 1250 by an
Augustinian monk named Orm, and so called
the Ormulum. There were other metrical versions
of various parts of the Bible. Midway
between Bede and Orm came Langland's
poem, "The Vision of Piers Plowman,"
which paraphrased so much of the Scripture.

Yet the fact is that until the last quarter of
the fourteenth century there was no prose version
of the Bible in the English language. Indeed,
there was only coming to be an English
language. It was gradually emerging, taking
definite shape and form, so that it could be
distinguished from the earlier Norman French,
Saxon, and Anglo-Saxon, in which so much of
it is rooted.

As soon as the language grew definite enough,
it was inevitable that two things should come
to pass. First, that some men would attempt
to make a colloquial version of the Bible; and,
secondly, that others would oppose it. One can
count with all confidence on these two groups
of men, marching through history like the
animals into the ark, two and two. Some men
propose, others oppose. They are built on
those lines.

We are more concerned with the men who made
the versions; but we must think a moment of
the others. One of his contemporaries, Knighton,
may speak for all in his saying of Wiclif,
that he had, to be sure, translated the Gospel
into the Anglic tongue, but that it had thereby
been made vulgar by him, and more open to the
reading of laymen and women than it usually
is to the knowledge of lettered and intelligent
clergy, and "thus the pearl is cast abroad and
trodden under the feet of swine"; and, that we
may not be in doubt who are the swine, he adds:
"The jewel of the Church is turned into the
common sport of the people."

But two strong impulses drive thoughtful
men to any effort that will secure wide knowledge
of the Bible. One is their love of the Bible and
their belief in it; but the other, dominant then
and now, is a sense of the need of their own
time. It cannot be too strongly urged that the
two great pioneers of English Bible translation,
Wiclif and Tindale, more than a century apart,
were chiefly moved to their work by social conditions.
No one could read the literature of
the times of which we are speaking without
smiling at our assumption that we are the first
who have cared for social needs. We talk about
the past as the age of the individual, and the
present as the social age. Our fathers, we say,
cared only to be saved themselves, and had no
concern for the evils of society. They believed
in rescuing one here and another there, while
we have come to see the wisdom of correcting
the conditions that ruin men, and so saving men
in the mass. There must be some basis of
truth for that, since we say it so confidently;
but it can be much over-accented. There were
many of our fathers, and of our grandfathers,
who were mightily concerned with the mass of
people, and looked as carefully as we do for a
corrective of social evils. Wiclif, in the late
fourteenth century, and Tindale, in the early
sixteenth, were two such men. The first English
translations of the Bible were fruits of the
social impulse.

Wiclif was impressed with the chasm that
was growing between the church and the people,
and felt that a wider and fuller knowledge
of the Bible would be helpful for the closing of
the chasm. It is a familiar remark of Miss
Jane Addams that the cure for the evils of
democracy is more democracy. Wiclif believed
that the cure for the evils of religion is more
religion, more intelligent religion. He found a
considerable feeling that the best things in
religion ought to be kept from most people,
since they could not be trusted to understand
them. His own feeling was that the best things
in religion are exactly the things most people
ought to know most about; that people had better
handle the Bible carelessly, mistakenly, than
be shut out from it by any means whatever.
We owe the first English translation to a faith
that the Bible is a book of emancipation for the
mind and for the political life.

John Wiclif himself was a scholar of Oxford,
master of that famous Balliol College which
has had such a list of distinguished masters.
He was an adviser of Edward III. Twenty
years after his death a younger contemporary
(W. Thorpe) said that "he was considered by
many to be the most holy of all the men of his
age. He was of emaciated frame, spare, and
well nigh destitute of strength. He was absolutely
blameless in his conduct." And even
that same Knighton who accused him of casting
the Church's pearl before swine says that in
philosophy "he came to be reckoned inferior
to none of his time."

But it was not at Oxford that he came to know
common life so well and to sense the need for
a new social influence. He came nearer to it
when he was rector of the parish at Lutterworth.
As scholar and rector he set going the
two great movements which leave his name in
history. One was his securing, training, and
sending out a band of itinerant preachers or
"poor priests" to gather the people in fields
and byways and to preach the simple truths
of the Christian religion. They were unpaid,
and lived by the kindness of the common people.
They came to be called Lollards, though
the origin of the name is obscure. Their followers
received the same name. A few years
after Wiclif's death an enemy bitterly observed
that if you met any two men one was sure to
be a Lollard. It was the "first time in English
history that an appeal had been made to the
people instead of the scholars." Religion was
to be made rather a matter of practical life than
of dogma or of ritual. The "poor priests" in
their cheap brown robes became a mighty religious
force, and evoked opposition from the
Church powers. A generation after Wiclif's
death they had become a mighty political force
in the controversy between the King and the
Pope. As late as 1521 five hundred Lollards
were arrested in London by the bishop.[1] Wiclif's
purpose, however, was to reach and help the
common people with the simpler, and therefore
the most fundamental, truths of religion.

[1] Muir, Our Grand Old Bible, p. 14.

The other movement which marks Wiclif's
name concerns us more; but it was connected
with the first. He set out to give the common
people the full text of the Bible for their common
use, and to encourage them not only in reading
it, if already they could read, but in learning to
read that they might read it. Tennyson
compares the village of Lutterworth to that of
Bethlehem, on the ground that if Christ, the
Word of God, was born at Bethlehem, the Word
of Life was born again at Lutterworth.[1] The
translation was from the Vulgate, and Wiclif
probably did little of the actual work himself,
yet it is all his work. And in 1382, more than
five centuries ago, there appeared the first complete
English version of the Bible. Wiclif made
it the people's Book, and the English people were
the first of the modern nations to whom the
Bible as a whole was given in their own familiar
tongue. Once it got into their hands they have
never let it be taken entirely away.

 [1] "Not least art thou, thou little Bethlehem
 In Judah, for in thee the Lord was born;
 Nor thou in Britain, little Lutterworth,
 Least, for in thee the word was born again."
                    --Sir John Oldcastle.

Of course, all this was before the days of
printing, and copies were made by hand only.
Yet there were very many of them. One hundred
and fifty manuscripts, in whole or in part,
are extant still, a score of them of the original
version, the others of the revision at once undertaken
by John Purvey, Wiclif's disciple. The
copies belonging to Edward VI. and Queen
Elizabeth are both still in existence, and both
show much use. Twenty years after it was
completed copies were counted very valuable,
though they were very numerous. It was not
uncommon for a single complete manuscript
copy of the Wiclif version to be sold for one
hundred and fifty or two hundred dollars, and
Foxe, whose Book of Martyrs we used to read as
children, tells that a load of hay was given
for the use of a New Testament one hour a day.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the influence
of this gift to the English people. It constitutes
the standard of Middle English. Chaucer and
Wiclif stood side by side. It is true that
Chaucer himself accepted Wiclif's teaching, and
some of the wise men think that the "parson"
of whom he speaks so finely as one who taught
the lore of Christ and His apostles twelve, but
first followed it himself, was Wiclif. But the version
had far more than literary influence; it had
tremendous power in keeping alive in England
that spirit of free inquiry which is the only safeguard
of free institutions. Here was the entire
source of the Christian faith available for the
judgment of common men, and they became at
once judges of religious and political dogma.
Dr. Ladd thinks it was not the reading of the
Bible which produced the Reformation; it was
the Reformation itself which procured the reading
of the Bible.[1] But Dr. Rashdall and Professor
Pollard and others are right when they
insist that the English Reformation received less
from Luther than from the secret reading of the
Scripture over the whole country. What we
call the English spirit of free inquiry was fostered
and developed by Wiclif and his Lollards
with the English Scripture in their hands. Out
of it has grown as out of no other one root the
freedom of the English and American people.

[1] What Is the Bible?, p. 45.

This work of Wiclif deserves the time we have
given it because it asserted a principle for the
English people. There was much yet to be
done before entire freedom was gained. At
Oxford, in the Convocation of 1408, it was
solemnly voted: "We decree and ordain that
no man hereafter by his own authority translate
any text of the Scripture into English, or
any other tongue, by way of a book, pamphlet,
or other treatise; but that no man read any
such book, pamphlet, or treatise now lately composed
in the time of John Wiclif ... until the
said translation be approved by the orderly of
the place." But it was too late. It is always
too late to overtake a liberating idea once it
gets free. Tolstoi tells of Batenkoff, the Russian
nihilist, that after he was seized and confined
in his cell he was heard to laugh loudly;
and, when they asked him the cause of his mirth,
he said that he could not fail to be amused at
the absurdity of the situation. "They have
caught me," he said, "and shut me up here;
but my ideas are out yonder in the streets and
in the fields, absolutely free. They cannot
overtake them." It was already too late,
twenty years after Wiclif's version was available,
to stop the English people in their search
for religious truth.

In the century just after the Wiclif translation,
two great events occurred which bore
heavily on the spread of the Bible. One was
the revival of learning, which made popular
again the study of the classics and the classical
languages. Critical and exact Greek scholarship
became again a possibility. Remember that
Wiclif did not know Greek nor Hebrew, did not
need to know them to be the foremost scholar
of Oxford in the fourteenth century. Even as
late as 1502 there was no professor of Greek at
the proud University of Erfurt when Luther was
a student there. It was after he became a
doctor of divinity and a university professor
that he learned Greek in order to be a better
Bible student, and his young friend Philip
Melancthon was the first to teach Greek in
the University.[1] But under the influence of
Erasmus and his kind, with their new insistence
on classical learning, there came necessarily a
new appraisal of the Vulgate as a translation
of the original Bible. For a thousand years
there had been no new study of the original
Bible languages in Europe. The Latin of the
Vulgate had become as sacred as the Book itself.
But the revival of learning threw scholarship
back on the sources of the text. Erasmus
and others published versions of the Greek
Testament which were disturbing to the Vulgate
as a final version.

[1] McGiffert, Martin Luther.

The other great event of that same century
was the invention of printing with movable
type. It was in 1455 that Gutenberg printed
his first book, an edition of the Vulgate, now
called the Mazarin Bible. The bearing of the
invention on the spread of common knowledge
is beyond description. It is rather late to be
praising the art of printing, and we need spend
little time doing so; but one can see instantly
how it affected the use of the Bible. It made it
worth while to learn to read--there would be
something to read. It made it worth while to
write--there would be some one to read what
was written.

One hundred years exactly after the death of
Wiclif, William Tindale was born. He was
eight years old when Columbus discovered
America. He had already taken a degree at
Oxford, and was a student in Cambridge when
Luther posted his theses at Wittenburg. Erasmus
either was a teacher at Cambridge when
Tindale was a student there, or had just left.
Sir Thomas More and Erasmus were close
friends, and More's Utopia and Erasmus's
Greek New Testament appeared the same year,
probably while Tindale was a student at Cambridge.

But he came at a troubled time. The new
learning had no power to deepen or strengthen
the moral life of the people. It could not make
religion a vital thing. Morality and religion
were far separated. The priests and curates
were densely ignorant. We need not ask Tindale
what was the condition. Ask Bellarmine,
a cardinal of the Church: "Some Years before
the rise of the Lutheran heresy there was almost
an entire abandonment of equity in ecclesiastical
judgments; in morals, no discipline; in
sacred literature, no erudition; in divine things,
no reverence; religion was almost extinct." Or
ask Erasmus, who never broke with the Church:
"What man of real piety does not perceive with
sighs that this is far the most corrupt of all
ages? When did iniquity abound with more
licentiousness? When was charity so cold?"
And, as a century before, Wiclif had felt the
social need for a popular version of the Bible,
so William Tindale felt it now. He saw the
need as great among the clergy of the time as
among the laity. In one of his writings he
says: "If you will not let the layman have the
word of God in his mother tongue, yet let the
priests have it, which for the great part of
them do understand no Latin at all, but sing
and patter all day with the lips only that which
the heart understandeth not."[1] So bad was
the case that it was not corrected within a whole
generation. Forty years after Tindale's version
was published, the Bishop of Gloucester,
Hooper by name, made an examination of the
clergy of his diocese. There were 311 of them.
He found 168, more than half, unable to repeat
the Ten Commandments; 31 who did not even
know where they could be found; 40 who could
not repeat the Lord's Prayer; and nearly as
many who did not know where it originated;
yet they were all in regular standing as clergy
in the diocese of Gloucester. The need was
keen enough.

[1] Obedience of a Christian Man.

About 1523 Tindale began to cast the Scriptures
into the current English. He set out to
London fully expecting to find support and
encouragement there, but he found neither. He
found, as he once said, that there was no room
in the palace of the Bishop of London to translate
the New Testament; indeed, that there was
no place to do it in all England. A wealthy
London merchant subsidized him with the munificent
gift of ten pounds, with which he went
across the Channel to Hamburg; and there and
elsewhere on the Continent, where he could be hid,
he brought his translation to completion. Printing
facilities were greater on the Continent than
in England; but there was such opposition to
his work that very few copies of the several
editions of which we know can still be found.
Tindale was compelled to flee at one time with
a few printed sheets and complete his work on
another press. Several times copies of his books
were solemnly burned, and his own life was frequently
in danger.

There is one amusing story which tells how
money came to free Tindale from heavy debt
and prepare the way for more Bibles. The
Bishop of London, Tunstall, was set on destroying
copies of the English New Testament. He
therefore made a bargain with a merchant of
Antwerp, Packington, to secure them for him.
Packington was a friend of Tindale, and went
to him forthwith, saying: "William, I know
thou art a poor man, and I have gotten thee a
merchant for thy books." "Who?" asked Tindale.
"The Bishop of London." "Ah, but
he will burn them." "So he will, but you will
have the money." And it all came out as it
was planned; the Bishop of London had the
books, Packington had the thanks, Tindale had
the money, the debt was paid, and the new
edition was soon ready. The old document,
from which I am quoting, adds that the Bishop
thought he had God by the toe when, indeed,
he found afterward that he had the devil by
the fist.[1]

[1] Pollard, Records of the English Bible, p. 151.

The final revision of the Tindale translations
was published in 1534, and that becomes the
notable year of his life. In two years he was
put to death by strangling, and his body was
burned. When we remember that this was
done with the joint power of Church and State,
we realize some of the odds against which he

Spite of his odds, however, Tindale is the real
father of our King James version. About eighty
per cent. of his Old Testament and ninety per
cent. of his New Testament have been transferred
to our version. In the Beatitudes, for
example, five are word for word in the two versions,
while the other three are only slightly
changed.[1] Dr. Davidson has calculated that
nine-tenths of the words in the shorter New
Testament epistles are Tindale's, and in the
longer epistles like the Hebrews five-sixths are
his. Froude's estimate is fair: "Of the translation
itself, though since that time it has been
many times revised and altered, we may say
that it is substantially the Bible with which we
are familiar. The peculiar genius which breathes
through it, the mingled tenderness and majesty,
the Saxon simplicity, the preternatural grandeur,
unequaled, unapproached, in the attempted
improvements of modern scholars, all are here,
and bear the impress of the mind of one man,
William Tindale."[2]

[1] The fourth reads in his version, "Blessed are they which
hunger and thirst for righteousness"; the seventh, "Blessed are
the maintainers of peace"; the eighth, "Blessed are they which
suffer persecution for righteousness' sake."

[2] History of England, end of chap. xii.

We said a moment ago that Wiclif's translation
was the standard of Middle English. It is
time to add that Tindale's version "fixed our
standard English once for all, and brought it
finally into every English home." The revisers
of 1881 declared that while the authorized version
was the work of many hands, the foundation
of it was laid by Tindale, and that the
versions that followed it were substantially
reproductions of Tindale's, or revisions of versions
which were themselves almost entirely based
on it.

There was every reason why it should be a
worthy version. For one thing, it was the first
translation into English from the original Hebrew
and Greek. Wiclif's had been from the
Latin. For Tindale there were available two
new and critical Greek Testaments, that of
Erasmus and the so-called Complutensian,
though he used that of Erasmus chiefly. There
was also available a carefully prepared Hebrew
Old Testament. For another thing, it was the
first version which could be printed, and so be
subject to easy and immediate correction and
revision. Then also, Tindale himself was a
great scholar in the languages. He was "so
skilled in the seven languages, Hebrew, Greek,
Latin, Italian, Spanish, English, and French,
that, whichever he spoke, you would suppose it
was his native tongue."[1] Nor was his spirit
in the work controversial. I say his "spirit in
the work" with care. They were controversial
times, and Tindale took his share in the verbal
warfare. When, for example, there was objection
to making any English version because
"the language was so rude that the Bible could
not be intelligently translated into it," Tindale
replied: "It is not so rude as they are false
liars. For the Greek tongue agreeth more with
the English than with the Latin, a thousand
parts better may it be translated into the English
than into the Latin."[2] And when a high
church dignitary protested to Tindale against
making the Bible so common, he replied: "If
God spare my life, ere many years I will cause
a boy that driveth a plow shall know more of
the Scriptures than thou dost." And while that
was not saying much for the plowboy, it was
saying a good deal to the dignitary. In language,
Tindale was controversial enough, but
in his spirit, in making his version, there was no
element of controversy. For such reasons as
these we might expect the version to be valuable.

[1] Herman Buschius.

[2] This will mean the more to us when we realize that the
literary men of the day despised the English tongue. Sir Thomas
More wrote his Utopia in Latin, because otherwise educated
men would not deign to read it. Years later Roger Ascham
apologized for writing one of his works in English. Putting the
Bible into current English impressed these literary men very
much as we would be impressed by putting the Bible into current

All this while, and especially between the time
when Tindale first published his New Testament
and the time they burned him for doing so, an
interesting change was going on in England.
The King was Henry VIII., who was by no means
a willing Protestant. As Luther's work appeared,
it was this same Henry who wrote the
pamphlet against him during the Diet of Worms,
and on the ground of this pamphlet, with its
loyal support of the Church against Luther, he
received from the Roman pontiff the title "Defender
of the Faith," which the kings of England
still wear. And yet under this king this
strange succession of dates can be given. Notice
them closely. In 1526 Tindale's New Testament
was burned at St. Paul's by the Bishop of
London; ten years later, 1536, Tindale himself
was burned with the knowledge and connivance
of the English government; and yet, one year
later, 1537, two versions of the Bible in English,
three-quarters of which were the work of Tindale,
were licensed for public use by the King
of England, and were required to be made available
for the people! Eleven years after the
New Testament was burned, one year after
Tindale was burned, that crown was set on his
work! What brought this about?

Three facts help to explain it. First, the
recent years of Bible translation were having
their weight. The fugitive copies of the Bible
were doing their work. Spite of the sharp opposition
fifty thousand copies of Tindale's various
editions had actually been published and
circulated. Men were reading them; they were
approving them. The more they read, the less
reason they saw for hiding the Book from the
people. Why should it not be made common
and free? There was strong Lutheran opinion
in the universities. It was already a custom
for English teachers to go to Germany for
minute scholarship. They came back with German
Bibles in Luther's version and with Greek
Testaments, and the young scholars who were
being raised up felt the influence, consciously or
unconsciously, of the free use of the Bible which
ruled in many German universities.

The second fact that helps to explain the sudden
change of attitude toward the Bible is this:
the people of England were never willingly
ruled from without, religiously or politically.
There has recently been a considerable controversy
over the history of the Established
Church of England, whether it has always been
an independent church or was at one time
officially a part of the Roman Church. That
is a matter for ecclesiastical history to determine.
The foundation fact, however, is as I
worded it a moment ago: the people of England
were never willingly ruled from without, religiously
or politically. They were sometimes
ruled from without; but they were either indifferent
to it at the time or rebellious against
it. Those who did think claimed the right to
think for themselves. The Scotch of the north
were peculiarly so, but the English of the south
claimed the same right. There has always been
an immense contrast between the two sides of
the British Channel. The French people during
all those years were deeply loyal to a foreign
religious government. The English people
were never so, not in the days of the fullest
Roman supremacy. They always demanded at
least a form of home government. That made
England a congenial home for the Protestant
spirit, which claimed the right to independent
study of the sources of religion and independent
judgment regarding them. It was only a continuance
of the spirit of Wiclif and the Lollards.
The spirit in a nation lives long, especially when
it is passed down by tradition. Those were not
the days of newspapers. They were instead
the days of great meetings, more important still
of small family gatherings, where the memory
of the older men was called into use, and where
boys and girls drank in eagerly the traditions
of their own country as expressed in the great
events of their history. Newspapers never can
fully take the place of those gatherings, for they
do not bring men together to feel the thrill of
the story that is told. It must be remembered
that the entire population of England at that
time was only about three millions. And that
old spirit of independence was strongly at work
in the middle-class villages and among the
merchants, and they were a ruling and dominant
class. That was second, that in those ten years
there asserted itself the age-long unwillingness
of the English people to be ruled from without.

The third fact which must be taken into account
to explain this remarkable change of
front of the public English life is Henry VIII.
himself. There is much about him that no
country would willingly claim. He was the
most habitual bridegroom in English history;
he had an almost confirmed habit of beheading
his wives or otherwise ridding himself of them.
Yet many traits made him a typical outstanding
Englishman. He had the characteristic spirit of
independence, the resentment of foreign control,
satisfaction with his own land, the feeling
that of course it is the best land. There are no
people in the world so well satisfied with their
own country as the people of England or the
British Isles. They are critical of many things
in their own government until they begin to
compare it with other countries; they must
make their changes on their own lines. The
pamphlet of Henry VIII., which won him the
title of Defender of the Faith, praised the pope;
and, though Sir Thomas More urged him to
change his expressions lest he should live to
regret them, he would not change them. But
that was while the pope was serving his wishes
and what he felt was England's good.

There arose presently the question, or the
several questions, about his marriage. It sheds
no glory on Henry VIII. that they arose as they
did; but his treatment of them must not be
mistaken. He was concerned to have his marriage
to Anne Boleyn confirmed, and there are
some who think he was honest in believing it
ought to be confirmed, though we need not believe
that. What happened was that for the
first time Henry VIII. found that as sovereign
of England he must take commands from a foreign
power, a power exercising temporal sovereignty
exactly as he did, but adding to it a claim
to spiritual power, a claim to determine his conduct
for him and to absolve his people from
loyalty to him if he was not obedient. It arose
over the question of his divorce, but it might
have arisen over anything else. It was limitation
on his sovereignty in England. And he let
it be seen that all questions that pertain to England
were to be settled in England, and not
in another land. He would rather have a matter
settled wrong in England than settled right
elsewhere. That is how he claimed to be
head of the English Church. The people back
of him had always held to the belief that they
were governed from within, though they were
linked to religion from without. He executed
their theory. That assertion of English sovereignty
came during the eventful years of which
we are speaking.

Here, then, are our great facts. First, thoughtful
opinion wanted the Bible made available,
and at a convention of bishops and university
men the King was requested to secure the issuance
of a proper translation. Secondly, the
people wanted it, the more because it would
gratify their English instinct of independent
judgment in matters of religion. Thirdly, the
King granted it without yielding his personal
religious position, in assertion of his human
sovereignty within his own realm.

So England awoke one morning in 1537 to
discover that it had a translation of the Bible
two of them actually, open to its use, the very
thing that had been forbidden yesterday! And
that, one year after Tindale had been burned in
loyal France for issuing an English translation!
Two versions were now authorized and made
available. What were they? That of Miles
Coverdale, which had been issued secretly two
years before, and that known as the "Matthew"
Bible, though the name has no significance,
issued within a year. Details are not to our
purpose. Neither was an independent work,
but was made largely from the Latin and the
German, and much influenced by Tindale.
Coverdale was a Yorkshire man like Wiclif,
feminine in his mental cast as Tindale was masculine.
Coverdale made his translation because
he loved books; Tindale because he felt driven
to it. But now the way was clear, and other
editions appeared. It is natural to name one
or two of the more notable ones.

There appeared what is known as the Great
Bible in 1539. It was only another version
made by Coverdale on the basis of the Matthew
version, but corrected by more accurate knowledge.
There is an interesting romance of its
publication. The presses of England were not
adequate for the great work planned; it was to
be a marvel of typography. So the consent of
King Francis was gained to have it printed in
France, and Coverdale was sent as a special
ambassador to oversee it. He was in dread of
the Inquisition, which was in vogue at the time,
and sent off his printed sheets to England as
rapidly as possible. Suddenly one day the order
of confiscation came from the Inquisitor-General.
Only Coverdale's official position as representing
the King saved his own life. As for the
printed sheets on which so much depended,
they seemed doomed. But in the nick of time
a dealer appeared at the printing-house and purchased
four great vats full of waste paper which
he shipped to England--when it was found that
the waste paper was those printed sheets. The
presses and the printers were all loyal to England,
and the edition was finally completed. The
Great Bible was issued to meet a decree that each
church should make available in some convenient
place the largest possible copy of the
whole Bible, where all the parishioners could
have access to it and read it at their will. The
version gets its name solely from the size of
the volume. That decree dates 1538, twelve
years after Tindale's books were burned, and
two years after he was burned! The installation
of these great books caused tremendous
excitement--crowds gathered everywhere. Bishop
Bonner caused six copies of the great volume
to be located wisely throughout St. Paul's. He
found it difficult to make people leave them
during the sermons. He was so often interrupted
by voices reading to a group, and by the
discussions that ensued, that he threatened to
have them taken out during the service if people
would not be quiet. The Great Bible appeared
in seven editions in two years, and
continued in recognized power for thirty years.
Much of the present English prayer-book is
taken from it.

But this liberty was so sudden that the people
naturally abused it. Henry became vexed
because the sacred words "were disputed, rimed,
sung, and jangled in every ale-house." There
had grown up a series of wild ballads and ribald
songs in contempt of "the old faith,"
while it was not really the old faith which was
in dispute, but only foreign control of English
faith. They had mistaken Henry's meaning.
So Henry began to put restrictions on the use
of the Bible. There were to be no notes or
annotations in any versions, and those that
existed were to be blacked out. Only the upper
classes were to be allowed to possess a Bible.
Finally, the year before his death, all versions
were prohibited except the Great Bible, whose
cost and size precluded secret use. The decree
led to another great burning of Bibles in 1546--
Tindale, Coverdale, Matthew--all but the Great
Bible. The leading religious reformers took
flight and fled to European Protestant towns
like Frankfort and Strassburg. But the Bible
remained. Henry VIII. died. The Bible lived on.

Under Edward VI., the boy king, coming to
the throne at nine and dying at fifteen, the
regency with Crammer at its head earned its
bad name. But while its members were shamelessly
despoiling churches and enriching themselves
they did one great service for the Bible.
They cast off all restrictions on its translation
and publication. The order for a Great Bible
in every church was renewed, and there was to
be added to it a copy of Erasmus's paraphrase
of the four gospels. Nearly fifty editions of
the Bible, in whole or in part, appeared in those
six years.

And that was fortunate, for then came Mary
--and the deluge. Of course, she again gave in
the nominal allegiance of England to the Roman
control. But she utterly missed the spirit of
the people. They were weary with the excesses
of rabid Protestantism; but they were by no
means ready to admit the principle of foreign
control in religious matters. They might have
been willing, many of them, that the use of the
Bible should be restricted, if it were done by
their own sovereign. They were not willing
that another sovereign should restrict them.
So the secret use of the Bible increased. Martyr
fires were kindled, but by the light of them the
people read their Bibles more eagerly. And this
very persecution led to one of the best of the
early versions of the Bible, indirectly even to
the King James version.

The flower of English Protestant scholarship
was driven into exile, and found its way to
Frankfort and Geneva again. There the spirit
of scholarship was untrammeled; there they
found material for scholarly study of the Bible,
and there they made and published a new version
of the Bible in English, by all means the
best that had been made. In later years, under
Elizabeth, it drove the Great Bible off the field
by sheer power of excellence. During her reign
sixty editions of it appeared. This was the version
called the Genevan Bible. It made several
changes that are familiar to us. For one thing,
in the Genevan edition of 1560 first appeared
our familiar division into verses. The chapter
division was made three centuries earlier; but
the verses belong to the Genevan version, and
are divided to make the Book suitable for
responsive use and for readier reference. It was
taken in large part from the work of Robert
Stephens, who had divided the Greek Testament
into verses, ten years earlier, during a journey
which he was compelled to make between Paris
and Lyons. The Genevan version also abandoned
the old black letter, and used the Roman
type with which we are familiar. It had full
notes on hard passages, which notes, as we shall
see, helped to produce the King James version.
The work itself was completed after the accession
of Elizabeth, when most of the religious leaders
had returned to England from their exile under Mary.

Elizabeth herself was not an ardent Protestant,
not ardent at all religiously, but an ardent
Englishwoman. She understood her people, and
while she prided herself on being the "Guardian
of the Middle Way," she did not make the
mistake of submitting her sovereignty to foreign
supervision. Probably Elizabeth always
counted herself personally a Catholic, but not
politically subject to the Roman pontiff. She
had no wish to offend other Catholic powers;
but she was determined to develop a strong
national spirit and to allow religious differences
to exist if they would be peaceful. The dramatic
scene which was enacted at the time of
her coronation procession was typical of her
spirit. As the procession passed down Cheapside,
a venerable old man, representing Time,
with a little child beside him representing
Truth--Time always old, Truth always young--
presented the Queen with a copy of the Scriptures,
which she accepted, promising to read
them diligently.

Presently it was found that two versions of
the Bible were taking the field, the old Great
Bible and the new Genevan Bible. On all
accounts the Genevan was the better and was
driving out its rival. Yet there could be no
hope of gaining the approval of Elizabeth for
the Genevan Bible. For one thing, John Knox
had been a party to its preparation; so had
Calvin. Elizabeth detested them both, especially
Knox. For another thing, its notes
were not favorable to royal sovereignty, but
smacked so much of popular government as to
be offensive. For another thing, though it had
been made mostly by her own people, it had been
made in a foreign land, and was under suspicion
on that account. The result was that Elizabeth's
archbishop, Parker, set out to have an authorized
version made, selected a revision committee,
with instructions to follow wherever
possible the Great Bible, to avoid bitter notes,
and to make such a version that it might be
freely, easily, and naturally read. The result
is known as the Bishops' Bible. It was issued
in Elizabeth's tenth year (1568), but there is
no record that she ever noticed it, though Parker
sent her a copy from his sick-bed. The Bishops'
Bible shows the influence of the Genevan
Bible in many ways, though it gives no credit
for that. It is not of equal merit; it was expensive,
too cumbersome, and often unscholarly.
Only its official standing gave it life, and after
forty years, in nineteen editions, it was no longer

Naming one other English version will complete
the series of facts necessary for the consideration
of the forming of the King James
version. It will be remembered that all the
English versions of the Bible thus far mentioned
were the work of men either already out of favor
with the Roman pontiff, or speedily put out of
favor on that account. Thirty years after his
death; Wiclif's bones were taken up and burned;
Tindale was burned. Coverdale's version and
the Great Bible were the product of the period
when Henry VIII. was under the ban. The
Genevan Bible was the work of refugees, and
the Bishops' Bible was prepared when Elizabeth
had been excommunicated. That fact
seemed to many loyal Roman churchmen to
put the Church in a false light. It must be
made clear that its opposition was not to the
Bible, not even to popular use and possession
of the Bible, but only to unauthorized, even
incorrect, versions. So there came about the
Douai version, instigated by Gregory Martin,
and prepared in some sense as an answer to the
Genevan version and its strongly anti-papal
notes. It was the work of English scholars connected
with the University of Douai. The New
Testament was issued at Rheims in 1582, and
the whole Bible in 1609, just before our King
James version. It is made, not from the Hebrew
and the Greek, though it refers to both,
but from the Vulgate. The result is that the
Old Testament of the Douai version is a translation
into English from the Latin, which in
large part is a translation into Latin from the
Greek Septuagint, which in turn is a translation
into Greek from the Hebrew. Yet scholars are
scholars, and it shows marked influence of the
Genevan version, and, indeed, of other English
versions. Its notes were strongly anti-Protestant,
and in its preface it explains its existence
by saying that Protestants have been guilty
of "casting the holy to dogs and pearls to hogs."

The version is not in the direct line of the
ascent of the familiar version, and needs no
elaborate description. Its purpose was controversial;
it did not go to available sources;
its English was not colloquial, but ecclesiastical.
For example, in the Lord's Prayer we read:
"Give us this day our supersubstantial bread,"
instead of "our daily bread." In Hebrews xiii:
17, the version reads, "Obey your prelates and
be subject unto them." In Luke iii:3, John
came "preaching the baptism of penance." In
Psalm xxiii:5, where we read, "My cup runneth
over," the Douai version reads, "My chalice
which inebriateth me, how goodly it is."
There is a careful retention of ecclesiastical
terms, and an explanation of the passages on
which Protestants had come to differ rather
sharply from their Roman brethren, as in the
matter of the taking of the cup by the people,
and elsewhere.

Yet it is only fair to remember that this much
answer was made to the versions which were
preparing the way for the greatest version of
them all, and when the time came for the making
of that version, and the helps were gathered
together, the Douai was frankly placed among
them. It is a peculiar irony of fate that while
the purpose of Gregory Martin was to check
the translation of the Bible by the Protestants,
the only effect of his work was to advance and
improve that translation.

At last, as we shall see in our next study, the
way was cleared for a free and open setting of
the Bible into English. The way had been
beset with struggle, marked with blood, lighted
by martyr fires. Wiclif and Purvey, Tindale
and Coverdale, the refugees at Geneva and the
Bishops at London, all had trod that way.
Kings had fought them or had favored them;
it was all one; they had gone on. Loyal zest
for their Book and loving zeal for the common
people had held them to the path. Now it
had become a highway open to all men. And
right worthy were the feet which were soon
treading it.



EARLY in January, 1604, men were making
their way along the poor English highways,
by coach and carrier, to the Hampton
Court Palace of the new English king. They
were coming from the cathedral towns, from the
universities, from the larger cities. Many were
Church dignitaries, many were scholars, some
were Puritans, all were loyal Englishmen, and
they were gathering in response to a call for
a conference with the king, James I. They were
divided in sentiment, these men, and those who
hoped most from the conference were doomed
to complete disappointment. Not one among
them, not the King, had the slightest purpose
that the conference should do what proved to
be its only real service. Some of the men,
grave and earnest, were coming to present their
petitions to the King, others were coming to
oppose their petitions; the King meant to deny
them and to harry the petitioners. And everything
came out as it had been planned. Yet
the largest service of the conference, the only
real service, was in no one's mind, for it was at
Hampton Court, on the last day of the conference
between James and the churchmen,
January 18, 1604, that the first formal step was
taken toward the making of the so-called Authorized
Version of the English Bible. If there
are such things as accidents, this great enterprise
began in an accident. But the outcome of
the accident, the volume that resulted, is "allowed
by all competent authorities to be the
first, [that is, the chief] English classic," if our
Professor Cook, of Yale, may speak; "is universally
accepted as a literary masterpiece, as
the noblest and most beautiful Book in the
world, which has exercised an incalculable influence
upon religion, upon manners, upon literature,
and upon character," if the Balliol College
scholar Hoare can be trusted; and has
"made the English language," if Professor March
is right. The purpose of this study is to show
how that accident occurred, and what immediately
came from it.

With the death of Elizabeth the Tudor line
of sovereigns died out. The collateral Stuart
line, descending directly from Henry VII.,
naturally succeeded to the throne, and James
VI. of Scotland made his royal progress to the
English capital and became James I. of England.
In him appears the first of that Stuart
line during whose reign great changes were to
occur. Every one in the line held strongly to
the dogma of the divine right of kings, yet under
that line the English people transferred sovereignty
from the king to Parliament.[1] Fortunately
for history, and for the progress of popular
government, the Stuart line had no forceful
figures in it. Macaulay thinks it would have
been fatal to English liberty if they had been
able kings. It was easier to take so dangerous
a weapon as the divine right of kings from weak
hands than from strong ones. So it was that
though James came out of Scotland to assert
his divine and arbitrary right as sovereign, by
the time Queen Anne died, closing the Stuart
line and giving way to the Hanoverian, the real
sovereignty had passed into the hands of Parliament.

[1] Trevelyan, England Under the Stuarts.

But the royal traveler, coming from Edinburgh
to London, is interesting on his own
account--interesting at this distance. He is
thirty-seven years old, and ought to be in the
beginning of his prime. He is a little over
middle height; loves a good horse, though he is
an ungainly rider, and has fallen off his horse
three or four times during his royal progress;
is a heavy drinker of the liquors of the period,
with horribly coarse, even gross manners. Macaulay
is very severe with him. He says that
"his cowardice, his childishness, his pedantry,
his ungainly person and manners, his provincial
accent, made him an object of derision. Even
in his virtues and accomplishments there was
something eminently unkingly."[1] It seemed
too bad that "royalty should be exhibited to the
world stammering, slobbering, shedding unmanly
tears, trembling at the drawn sword, and
talking in the style alternately of a buffoon and
of a pedagogue." That is truly not an attractive
picture. But there is something on the
other side. John Richard Green puts both
sides: "His big head, his slobbering tongue, his
quilted clothes, his rickety legs stood out in as
grotesque a contrast with all that men recalled of
Henry and Elizabeth as his gabble and rhodomontade,
his want of personal dignity, his
buffoonery, his coarseness of speech, his pedantry,
his contemptible cowardice. Under this
ridiculous exterior, however, lay a man of much
natural ability, a ripe scholar with a considerable
fund of shrewdness, of mother wit and
ready repartee."[2]

[1] History of England, chap. i.

[2] Short History of the English People, chap. viii, sec. ii.

Some good traits he must have had. He did
win some men to him. As some one has said,
"You could love him; you could despise him;
you could not hate him." He could say some
witty and striking things. For example, when
he was urging the formal union of Scotland and
England, and it was opposed, he said: "But I
am the husband, and the whole island is my
wife. I hope no one will be so unreasonable
as to suppose that I, that am a Christian king
under the Gospel, should be a polygamist and
husband to two wives."[2] After the conference
of which we have been speaking, he wrote to a
friend in Scotland: "I have had a revel with the
Puritans and have peppered them soundly."
As indeed he had. Then, in some sense at least,
"James was a born theologian." He had studied
the Bible in some form from childhood; one of
the first things we hear of his doing is the writing
of a paraphrase on the book of the Revelation.
In his talk he made easy and free use of
Scripture quotations. To be sure, his knowledge,
on which he prided himself unconscionably, was
shallow and pedantic. Henry IV. of France,
one of his contemporaries, said that he was "the
wisest fool in Christendom."

[2] Trevelyan, England Under the Stuarts, p. 107.

Now, it was this man who was making his
royal progress from Edinburgh to London in
March, 1603, nearly a year before the gathering
of men which we were observing at the opening
of this study. Many things happened on the
journey besides his falling off his horse several
times; but one of the most significant was the
halting of the progress to receive what was
called the Miliary Petition, whose name implies
that it was signed by a thousand men--actually
somewhat less than that number--mostly ministers
of the Church. The Petition made no
mention of any Bible version, yet it was the
beginning of the events which led to it. Back
of it was the Puritan influence. It asked for
reforms in the English Church, for the correction
of abuses which had grown under Elizabeth's
increasing favor of ritual and ceremony.
It asked for a better-trained ministry, for better
discipline in the Church, for the omission of
so many detailed requirements of rites and
ceremonies, and for that perennially desired reform,
shorter church services!

Very naturally the new King replied that he
would take it up later, and promised to call a
conference to consider it. And this he did.
The conference met at Hampton Court in January,
1604, and it was for this that the men
were coming from many parts of England. The
gathering was held on the 14th, 16th, and 18th
of the month. Its sole purpose was to consider
that Miliary Petition; but the King called to it
not only those who had signed the Petition, but
those who had opposed it. He had no notion
of granting any favor to it, and from the first
he gave the Puritans rough treatment. He
told them he would have none of their non-
conformity, he would "make them conform or
harry them out of the land." Someone suggested
that since this was a Church matter there be
called a Synod, or some general gathering fitted to
discuss and determine such things, rather than
leave it to a few Church dignitaries. For the
purposes of the petitioners it was a most unfortunate
expression. James had just come from
Scotland, where the Presbyterians were with
their Synod, and where Calvinism was in full
swing. He was much in favor of some elements
of Calvinism; but he could not see how all the
elements held together. Predestination, for
example, which offends so many people to-day,
was a precious doctrine to King James, and he
insisted that his subjects ought to see how clearly
God had predestined him to rule over them!
But he could not tolerate the necessary logical
inference of Calvinism that all men must be
equal before God, and so men can make and
unmake kings as they need to do so, the matter
of king or subject being purely an incidental
one. He remembered the time when Andrew
Melville, one of the Scotch ministers, had
plucked him by his royal sleeve and called him
"God's silly vassal" right to his face. So,
when some one said "Synod" it brought the
King up standing. He burst out: "If that is
what you mean, if you want what the Scotch
mean by their Synod and their Presbytery, then
I tell you at once that I will have none of it.
Presbytery agrees with monarchy very much as
God agrees with the devil. If you have no
bishop, you will soon have no king." He was
perfectly right, with reference to the kind of
king he meant. These things were to be settled,
he meant, by authority, and not by conference.
That is the point to which Gardiner
refers when he says that "in two minutes James
sealed his own fate and that of England forever."[1]

[1] History of England, 1603-42.

After that there was only a losing fight for
the petitioners. They had touched a sore spot
in James's history. But it was when they
touched that sore spot again that they started
the movement for a new version of the Bible.
It was on the second day of the conference,
January 16th, that Dr. Reynolds, president of
Corpus Christi College, Oxford, who represented
the moderate Puritan position, and, like many
moderate men, was rather suspected by both
extreme wings, instanced as one of the hardships
of the Puritans that they were compelled to use
the prayer-book of the time, and that it contained
many mistranslations of Scripture, some
of which he quoted. Now, it so happens that
the errors to which he referred occur in the
Bishops' and the Great Bible, which were the
two authorized versions of the time, but are
all corrected in the Genevan version. We do
not know what point he was trying to make,
whether he was urging that the Genevan version
should supplant these others, or whether
he was calling for a new translation. Indeed,
we are not sure that he even mentioned the
Genevan version. But James spoke up to say
that he had never yet seen a Bible well translated
into English; but the worst of all he
thought the Genevan to be. He spoke as though
he had just had a copy given him by an English
lady, and had already noted what he called its
errors. That was at the very least a royal
evasion, for if there was any Book he did know
it was the Genevan version. He had been fairly
raised on it; he had lived in the country where
it was commonly used. It had been preached
at him many and many a time. Indeed, he
had used it as the text for that paraphrase of
the Revelation of which we spoke a moment ago.
And he knew its notes--well he knew them--
knew that they were from republican Geneva,
and that kingly pretensions had short shrift
with them. James told the conference that
these notes were "very partial, untrue, seditious,
savoring too much of traitorous and dangerous
conceits," supporting his opinion by two instances
which seemed disrespectful to royalty.
One of these instances was the note on Exodus
1:17, where the Egyptian midwives are said to
have disobeyed the king in the matter of destroying
the children. The note says: "Their
disobedience to the king was lawful, though
their dissembling was not." James quoted that,
and said: "It is false; to disobey the king is
not lawful, and traitorous conceits should not
go forth among the people."

Some of the High Church party objected that
there were translations enough already; but it
struck James's fancy to set them all aside by
another version, which he at once said he would
order. It was to be made by the most learned
of both universities, then to be revised by the
bishops and other Church dignitaries, then presented
to the Privy Council, and finally to be
passed upon by himself. There is the echo of
some sharp Scotch experiences in his declaration
that there were to be no marginal notes in that
new version.

When they looked back on the conference,
the Puritans felt that they had lost everything,
and the High Church people that they had gained
everything. One of the bishops, in a very servile
way, and on his knee, gave thanks to God
for having given the country such a king, whose
like had never been seen since Christ was on
earth. Certainly hard times were ahead for
the Puritans. The King harried them according
to his word. Within sixteen years some of them
landed at Plymouth Rock, and things began to
happen on this side. That settlement at Plymouth
was the outcome of the threat the King
had made at the Hampton Court conference.

But looking back one can see that the conference
was worth while for the beginning of
the movement for the new version. The King
was true to his word in this line also, and before
the year was out had appointed the fifty-four
best Bible scholars of the realm to make the new
version. They were to sit in six companies of
nine each, two at Oxford, two at Cambridge,
and two at Westminster. The names of only
forty-seven of them have come down to us, and
it is not known whether the other seven were
ever appointed, or in what way their names have
been lost. It must be said for the King that the
only principle of selection was scholarship, and
when those six groups of men met they were
men of the very first rank, with no peers outside
their own numbers--with one exception, and
that exception is of some passing interest. Hugh
Broughton was probably the foremost Hebrew
scholar of England, perhaps of the world, at the
time, and apparently he was not appointed on
the committee. Chiefly, it seems to have been
because he was a man of ungovernable temper
and utterly unfitted to work with others. Failure
to appoint him, however, bit and rankled,
and the only keen and sharp criticism that was
passed on the version in its own day was by
Hugh Broughton. He sent word to the King,
after it was completed, that as for himself he
would rather be rent to pieces by wild horses
than have had any part in the urging of such a
wretched version of the Bible on the poor people.
That was so manifestly pique, however,
that it is only to be regretted that the translation
did not have the benefit of his great
Hebrew knowledge. John Selden, at his prime
in that day, voiced the feeling of most scholars
of the times, that the new translation was the
best in the world and best gave the sense of
the original.

We do not know much of the personnel of
the company. Their names would mean very
little to us at this distance. All were clergymen
except one. There were bishops, college
principals, university fellows, and rectors. Dr.
Reynolds, who suggested it in the first place,
was a member, though he did not live to see the
work finished. This Dr. Reynolds, by the way,
was party to a most curious episode. He had
been an ardent Roman Catholic, and he had a
brother who was an equally ardent Protestant.
They argued with each other so earnestly that
each convinced the other; the Roman Catholic
became a Protestant, and the Protestant became
a Roman Catholic! Dr. Lancelot Andrewes,
chairman of one of the two companies that met
at Westminster, was probably the most learned
man in England. They said of him that if he
had been present at the tower of Babel he could
have interpreted for all the tongues present.
The only trouble was that the world lacked
learning enough to know how learned he was.
His company had the first part of the Old
Testament, and the simple dignity of the style
they used shows how scholarship and simplicity
go easily together. Most people would consider
that the least satisfactory part of the work is
the second section, running from I Chronicles
to Ecclesiastes. A convert from another faith,
who learned to read the Bible in English, once
expressed to a friend of my own his feeling that
except for the Psalms and parts of Job, there
seemed to be here a distinct letting-down of the
dignity of the translation. There is good excuse
for this, if it is so, for two leading members
of the company who had that section in charge,
both eminent Cambridge scholars, died very
early in the work, and their places were not
filled. The third company, sitting at Oxford,
were peculiarly strong, and had for their portion
the hardest part of the Old Testament--all the
prophetical writings. But they did their part
with finest skill. The fourth company, sitting at
Cambridge, had the Apocrypha, the books which
lie between the Old and the New Testaments
for the most part, or else are supplemental to
certain Old Testament books. Their work was
rather hastily and certainly poorly done, and
has been dropped out of most editions. The
fifth company, sitting at Oxford, with great
Greek scholars on it, took the Gospels, the Acts,
and the Revelation. This company had in it
the one layman, Sir Henry Savile, then the greatest
Greek scholar in England. It is the same
Sir Henry Savile who heard, on his death-bed
in 1621, that James had with his own hands
torn from the Journal of Parliament the pages
which bore the protest in favor of free speech
in Parliament. Hearing it, the faithful scholar
prayed to die, saying: "I am ready to depart,
the rather that having lived in good times I
foresee worse." The sixth company met at
Westminster and translated the New Testament

It was the original plan that when one company
had finished its part, the result should go
to each of the other companies, coming back
with their suggestions to the original workers to
be recast by them. The whole was then to be
reviewed by a smaller committee of scholars to
give it uniformity and to see it through the
press. The records are not extant that tell
whether this was done in full detail, though we
may presume that each section of the Scripture
had the benefit of the scholarship of the entire

We know a good deal of the method of their
work. We shall understand it better by recalling
what material they had at hand. They
were enabled to use the result of all the work
that had been done before them. They were
instructed to follow the Bishops' Bible wherever
they could do so fairly; but they were given
power to use the versions already named from
Wiclif down, as well as those fragmentary versions
which were numerous, and of which no
mention has been made. They ransacked all
English forms for felicitous words and happy
phrases. It is one of the interesting incidents
that this same Hugh Broughton, who was left
off the committee and took it so hard, yet without
his will contributed some important matter
to the translation, because he had on his own
authority made translations of certain parts of
the Scripture. Several of our capital phrases
in the King James version are from him. There
was no effort to break out new paths. Preference
was always given to a familiar phrase
rather than to a new one, unless accuracy required
it. First, then, they had the benefit of
all the work that had been done before in the
same line, and gladly used it.

In addition, they had all other versions made
in the tongues of the time. Chiefly there was
Luther's German Bible, already become for the
German tongue what their version was destined
to be for the English tongue. There were parts
of the Bible available in Spanish, French, and
Dutch. They were kept at hand constantly
for any light they might cast on difficult passages.

For the Old Testament there were very few
Hebrew texts. There had been little critical
work yet done on them, and for the most part
there were only different editions running back
over the centuries. We have little more than
that now, and there is almost no new material
on the Old Testament since the days of the
King James translators. There was, of course,
the Septuagint, the Greek translation from the
Hebrew made before Christ, with the guidance
it could give in doubtful places on the probable
original. And finally there was the Vulgate,
made into Latin out of the Greek and Hebrew.
This was all the Old Testament material they
had, or that any one could have in view of the
antiquated original sources.

The New Testament material was more
abundant, though not nearly so abundant as
to-day. There were few manuscripts of the
early days to which they could refer; but there
were the two great critical versions of the New
Testament in Greek, that by Erasmus and the
Complutensian, which had made use of the best
manuscripts known. Then, finally again, there
was the Vulgate.

We must stop a moment to see what was the
value of the Vulgate in this work. It is impossible
to reckon the number of the early New
Testament manuscripts that have been lost.
In the earlier day the Scriptures were transmitted
from church to church, and from age to
age, by manuscripts. Many of them were
made as direct copies of other manuscripts; but
many were made by scribes to whom the manuscripts
were read as they wrote, so that there are
many, though ordinarily comparatively slight,
variations among the manuscripts which we now
know. More manuscripts are coming to light
constantly, manuscripts once well known and
then lost. Many of them, perhaps many earlier
than we now have, must have been familiar to
Jerome four hundred years after Christ. When,
therefore, there is a plain difference between the
Vulgate and our early Greek manuscripts, the
Vulgate may be wrong because it is only a translation;
but it may be right because it is a translation
of earlier manuscripts than some of ours.
It is steadily losing its value at that point, for
Greek manuscripts are all the time coming to
light which run farther back. But we must not
minimize the value of the Vulgate for our King
James translation.

With all this material the scholars of the early
seventeenth century set to work. Each man
in the group made the translation that seemed
best to him, and together they analyzed the
results and finally agreed on the best. They
hunted the other versions to see if it had been
better done elsewhere. The shade of Tindale
was over it all. The Genevan version was most
influential. The Douai had its share, and the
Bishops' was the general standard, altered only
when accuracy required it. On all hard passages
they called to their aid the appropriate departments
of both universities. All scholars everywhere
were asked to send in any contributions,
to correct or criticize as they would. Public
announcement of the work was made, and all
possible help was besought and gladly accepted.

Very faithfully these greatest scholars of their
time wrought. No one worked for money, and
no one worked for pay, but each for the joy of
the working. Three years they spent on the
original work, three years on careful revision
and on the marginal references by which Scripture
was made to throw light on Scripture.
Then in six months a committee reviewed it all,
put it through the press, and at last, in 1611,
with the imprint of Robert Barker, Printer to
the King's Most Excellent Majesty, the King
James version appeared. The name Authorized
Version is not a happy one, for so far as the
records go it was never authorized either by
the King or the bishop; and, even if it were, the
authority does not extend beyond the English
Church, which is a very small fraction of those
who use it. On the title-page of the original
version, as on so many since, is the familiar
line, "Appointed to be Read in Churches," but
who made the appointment history does not say.

The version did not at once supersede the
Genevan and the Bishops'; but it was so
incomparably better than either that gradually
they disappeared, and by sheer excellence it
took the field, and it holds the field to-day in
spite of the numerous supposedly improved versions
that have appeared under private auspices.
It holds the field, also, in spite of the excellent
revised version of 1881 made by authority, and
the more excellent version issued in 1901 by the
American Revision Committee, to-day undoubtedly
the best version in existence, considered
simply as a reproduction of the sense
of the original. And for reasons that may later
appear, the King James version bids fair to
hold the field for many years to come.

When we turn from the history of its making
to the work itself, there is much to say. We
may well narrow our thought for the remainder
of the study to its traits as a version of the

I. Name this first, that it is an honest version.
That is, it has no argumentative purpose. It
is not, as the scholars say, apologetic. It is
simply an out-and-out version of the Scripture,
as honestly as they could reproduce it.
There were Puritans on the committee; there
were extreme High Churchmen; there were
men of all grades between. But there is nowhere
any evidence that any one was set on
making the Bible prove his point. There were
strong anti-papal believers among them; but
they made free use of the Douai version, and,
of course, of the Vulgate. They knew the feeling
that Hugh Broughton had toward them;
but they made generous use of all that was good
in his work. They were working under a royal
warrant, and their dedication to King James,
with its absurd and fulsome flattery, shows what
they were capable of when they thought of the
King. But there is no twist of a text to make
it serve the purposes of royalty. They might
be servile when they thought of King James;
but there was not a touch of servility in them
when they thought of the Scripture itself. They
were under instruction not to abandon the use
of ecclesiastical terms. For instance, they were
not to put "congregation" in place of "church,"
as some Puritans wanted to do. Some thought
that was meant to insure a High Church version;
but the translators did not understand it
so for a moment. They understood it only to
safeguard them against making a partisan version
on either side, and to help them to make
a version which the people could read understandingly
at once. It was not to be a Puritan
Book nor a High Church Book. It was to
be an honest version of the Bible, no matter
whose side it sustained.

Now, if any one thinks that is easy, or only
a matter of course, he plainly shows that he has
never been a theologian or a scholar in a contested
field. Ask any lawyer whether it is easy
to handle his authorities with entire impartiality,
whether it is a matter of course that he will let
them say just what they meant to say when his
case is involved. Of course, he will seek to do
it as an honest lawyer, but equally, of course, he
will have to keep close watch on himself or he
will fail in doing it. Ask any historian whether
it is easy to handle the original documents in a
field in which he has firm and announced
opinions, and to let those documents speak exactly
what they mean to say, whether they support
him or not. The greater historians will always
do it, but they will sometimes do it with a bit
of a wrench.

Even a scholar is human, and these men sitting
in their six companies would all have to
meet this Book afterward, would have their
opinions tried by it. There must have been
times when some of them would be inclined to
salt the mine a little, to see that it would yield
what they would want it to yield later. So far
as these men were able to do it, they made it
say in English just what it said in Hebrew and
Greek. They showed no inclination to use it
as a weapon in their personal warfare.

One line of that honest effort is worth observing
more closely. When points were open to
fair discussion, and scholarship had not settled
them, they were careful not to let their version
take sides when it could be avoided. On some
mooted words they did not try translation, but
transliteration instead. That is, they brought
the Greek or Hebrew word over into English,
letter by letter. Suppose scholars differed as to
the exact meaning in English of a word in the
Greek. Some said it has this meaning, and some
that it has that. Now, if the version committed
itself to one of those meanings, it became an
argument at once against the other and helped
to settle a question on which scholarship was not
yet agreed. They could avoid making a partisan
Book by the simple device of bringing the
word which was disputed over into the new
translation. That left the discussion just where
it was before, but it saved the work from being
partisan. The method of transliteration did not
always work to advantage, as we shall see, but
it was intended throughout to save the Book
from taking sides on any question where honest
men might differ as to the meaning of words.

They did that with all proper names, and
that was notable in the Old Testament, because
most Old Testament proper names can be translated.
They all mean something in themselves.
Adam is the Hebrew word for man; Abraham
means Father of a Great Multitude; David is
the Hebrew word for Beloved; Malachi means
My Messenger. Yet as proper names they do
not mean any of those things. It is impossible
to translate a proper name into another tongue
without absurdity. It must be transliterated.
Yet there is constant fascination for translators
in the work of translating these proper names,
trying to make them seem more vivid. It is
quite likely, though it is disputed, that proper
names do all go back to simple meanings. But
by the time they become proper names they no
longer have those meanings. The only proper
treatment of them is by transliteration.

The King James translators follow that same
practice of transliteration rather than translation
with another word which is full of controversial.
possibility. I mean the word "baptism."
There was dispute then as now about
the method of that ordinance in early Christian
history. There were many who held that the
classical meaning which involved immersion had
been taken over bodily into the Christian faith,
and that all baptism was by immersion. There
were others who held that while that might be
the classical meaning of the word, yet in early
Christian custom baptism was not by immersion,
but might be by sprinkling or pouring, and who
insisted that no pressure on the mode was wise
or necessary. That dispute continues to this
day. Early versions of the Bible already figured
in the discussion, and for a while there was
question whether this King James version should
take sides in that controversy, about which men
equally loyal to truth and early Christian history
could honestly differ. The translators
avoided taking sides by bringing the Greek
word which was under discussion over into
English, letter by letter. Our word "baptism"
is not an English word nor a Saxon word; it
is a purely Greek word. The controversy has
been brought over into the English language;
but the King James version avoided becoming
a controversial book. A number of years ago
the convictions of some were so strong that another
version of the Bible was made, in which
the word baptism was carefully replaced by
what was believed to be the English translation,
"immersion," but the version never had
wide influence.

In this connection it is well to notice the
effort of the King James translators at a fair
statement of the divine name. It will be remembered
that it appears in the Old Testament
ordinarily as "LORD," printed in small capitals.
A very interesting bit of verbal history lies back
of that word. The word which represents the
divine name in Hebrew consists of four
consonants, J or Y, H, V, and H. There are no
vowels; indeed, there were no vowels in the
early Hebrew at all. Those that we now have
were added not far from the time of Christ.
No one knows the original pronunciation of that
sacred name consisting of four letters. At a
very early day it had become too sacred to pronounce,
so that when men came to it in reading
or in speech, they simply used another word
which is, translated into English, Lord, a word of
high dignity. When the time came that vowels
were to be added to the consonants, the vowels
of this other word Lord were placed under the
consonants of the sacred name, so that in the
word Jehovah, where the J H V H occur, there
are the consonants of one word whose vowels
are unknown and the vowels of another word
whose consonants are not used.

Illustrate it by imagining that in American
literature the name Lincoln gathered to itself
such sacredness that it was never pronounced
and only its consonants were ever printed. Suppose
that whenever readers came to it they
simply said Washington, thinking Lincoln all
the while. Then think of the displacement of
the vowels of Lincoln by the vowels of Washington.
You have a word that looks like Lancilon
or Lanicoln; but a reader would never
pronounce so strange a word. He would always
say Washington, yet he would always think the
other meaning. And while he would retain the
meaning in some degree, he would soon forget
the original word, retaining only his awe of it.
Which is just what happened with the divine
name. The Hebrews knew it was not Lord, yet
they always said Lord when they came to the
four letters that stood for the sacred word.
The word Jehovah, made up of the consonants
of an unknown word and the vowels of a familiar
word, is in itself meaningless. Scholarship
is not yet sure what was the original meaning
of the sacred name with its four consonants.

These translators had to face that problem.
It was a peculiar problem at that time. How
should they put into English the august name of
God when they did not know what the true
vowels were? There was dispute among scholars.
They did not take sides as our later American
Revision has done, some of us think quite unwisely.
They chose to retain the Hebrew usage,
and print the divine name in unmistakable type
so that its personal meaning could not be mistaken.

On the other hand, disputes since their day
have shown how they translated when transliteration
would have been wiser. Illustrate with
one instance. There is a Hebrew word, Sheol,
with a Greek word, Hades, which corresponds to
it. Usage had adopted the Anglo-Saxon word
Hell as the equivalent of both of these words,
so they translated Sheol and Hades with the
English word Hell. The only question that had
been raised was by that Hugh Broughton of
whom we were speaking a moment ago, and it
had not seemed a serious one. Certainly the
three terms have much in common, and there
are places where both the original words seemed
to be virtually equivalent to the Anglo-Saxon
Hell, but they are not the same. The Revised
Version of our own time returned to the original,
and instead of translating those words whose
meaning can be debated, it transliterated them
and brought the Hebrew word Sheol and the
Greek word Hades over into English. That,
of course, gave a chance for paragraphers to say
that the Revised Version had read Hell out of
the Scriptures. All that happened was that
cognizance was taken of a dispute which would
have guided the King James translators if it
had existed in their time, and we should not
have become familiar with the Anglo-Saxon
word Hell as the translation of those disputed
Hebrew and Greek words.

We need not seek more instances. These are
enough to illustrate the saying that here is an
honest version, the fruit of the best scholarship
of the times, without prejudice.

II. A second trait of the work as a version is
its remarkable accuracy. It is surprising that
with all the new light coming from early documents,
with all the new discoveries that have
been made. the latest revision needed to make
so few changes, and those for the most part
minor ones. There are, to be sure, some important
changes, as we shall see later; the wonder
is that there are not many more. The King
James version had, to be sure, the benefit of
all the earlier controversy. The whole ground
had been really fought over in the centuries
before, and most of the questions had been discussed.
They frankly made use of all the earlier
controversy. They say in their preface: "Truly,
good Christian reader, we never thought from
the beginning that we should need to make a
new translation, nor yet to make a bad one a
good one, but to make a good one better. That
hath been our endeavor, that our work." Also,
they had the advantage of deliberation. This
was the first version that had been made which
had such sanction that they could take their
time, and in which they had no reason to fear
that the results would endanger them. They
say in their preface that they had not run over
their work with that "posting haste" that had
marked the Septuagint, if the saying was true
that they did it all in seventy-two days; nor
were they "barred and hindered from going over
it again," as Jerome himself said he had been,
since as soon as he wrote any part "it was
snatched away from him and published"; nor
were they "working in a new field," as Origen
was when he wrote his first commentary on the
Bible. Both these things--their taking advantage
of earlier controversies which had cleared
many differences, and their deliberation--were
supplemented by a third which gave great accuracy
to the version. That was their adoption
of the principle of all early translators, perhaps
worded best by Purvey, who completed the
Wiclif version: "The best translation is to
translate after the sentence, and not only after
the words, so that the sentence be as open in
English as in Latin." That makes for accuracy.
It is quite impossible to put any language over,
word for word, into another without great
inaccuracy. But when the translators sought to
take the sentence of the Hebrew or the Greek
and put it into an exactly equivalent English
sentence, they had larger play for their language
and they had a fairer field for accuracy. These
were the three great facts which made the
remarkable accuracy possible, and it may be
interesting to note three corresponding results
which show the effort they made to be absolutely
accurate and fair in their translation.

The first of those results is visible in the
italicized words which they used. In the King
James version words in italics are a frank acknowledgment that
the Greek or the Hebrew
cannot be put into English literally. These are
English words which are put in because it seems
impossible to express the meaning originally
intended without certain additions which the
reader must take into account in his
understanding of the version. We need not think
far to see how necessary that was. The arrangement
of words in Greek, for example, is different
from that in English. The Greek of the
first verse of the Gospel of John reads that "God
was the Word," but the English makes its sentences
in a reversed form, and it really means,
"the Word was God." So the Greek uses particles
where the English does not. Often it
would say "the God" where we would say
simply "God." Those particles are ordinarily
wisely omitted. So the Greek does not use verbs
at some points where it is quite essential that
the English shall use them. But it is only fair
that in reading a version of the Scripture we
should know what words have been put in by
translators in their effort to make the version
clear to us; and the italicized words of the King
James version are a frank effort to be accurate
and yet fair.

The second result which shows their effort at
accuracy is in the marginal readings. Most of
these are optional readings, and are preceded
by the word "or," which indicates that one may
read what is in the text, or substitute for it what
is in the margin with equal fairness to the
original. But sometimes, instead of that familiar
"or," occur letters which indicate that
the Hebrew or the Greek literally means something
else than what is given in the English
text, and what it literally means is given in the
margin. The translators thereby say to the
reader that if he can take that literal meaning
and put it into the text so that it is intelligible
to him, here is his chance. As for them, they
think that the whole context or meaning of the
sentence rather involves the use of the phrase
which they put into the text. But the marginal
references are of great interest to most of us
as showing how these men were frank to say
that there were some things they could not
settle. They were rather blamed for it, chiefly
by those who had committed themselves to the
Douai version, which has no marginal readings,
on the ground that the translation ought to be
as authoritative as the original. The King
James translators repudiate that theory and
frankly say that the reason they put these
words in the margin was because they were not
sure what was the best reading. In the margin
of the epistle to the Romans there are eighty-
four such marginal readings, and the proportion
will hold throughout most of the version. They
were only trying to be accurate and to give every
one a chance to make up his own mind where
there was fair reason to question their results.

The third thing which shows their effort at
accuracy is their explicit avoidance of
uniformity in translating the same word. They
tried to put the meaning into English terms.
So, as they say, the one word might become
either "journeying" or "traveling"; one word
might be "thinking" or "supposing," "joy" or
"gladness," "eternal" or "everlasting." One
of the reasons they give for this is quaint enough
to quote. They said they did not think it right
to honor some words by giving them a place
forever in the Bible, while they virtually said
to other equally good words: Get ye hence and
be banished forever. They quote a "certaine
great philosopher" who said that those logs
were happy which became images and were worshiped,
while, other logs as good as they were
laid behind the fire to be burned. So they
sought to use as many English words, familiar
in speech and commonly understood, as they
might, lest they should impoverish the language,
and so lose out of use good words. There is no
doubt that in this effort both to save the language,
and to represent accurately the meaning
of the original, they sometimes overdid that
avoidance of uniformity. There were times
when it would have been well if the words had
been more consistently translated. For example,
in the epistle of James ii: 2, 3, you have goodly
"apparel," vile "raiment," and gay "clothing,"
all translating one Greek word. Our revised
versions have sought to correct such inconsistencies.
But it was all done in the interest
of an accuracy that should yet not be a slavish

This will be enough to illustrate what was
meant in speaking of the effort of the translators
to achieve accuracy in their version.

III. The third marked trait of the work as
a version of the Scripture is its striking blending
of dignity and popularity in its language. At
any period of a living language, there are three
levels of speech. There is an upper level used
by the clearest thinkers and most careful writers,
always correct according to the laws of the language,
generally somewhat remote from common
life--the habitual speech of the more intellectual.
There is also the lower level used by the
least intellectual, frequently incorrect according
to the laws of the language, rough, containing
what we now call "slang," the talk of a knot of
men on the street corner waiting for a new bulletin
of a ball game, cheap in words, impoverished
in synonyms, using one word to express any
number of ideas, as slang always does. Those
two levels are really farther apart than we are
apt to realize. A book or an article on the upper
level will be uninteresting and unintelligible to
the people on the lower level. And a book in
the language of the lower level is offensive and
disgusting to those of the upper level. That is
not because the ideas are so remote, but because
the characteristic expressions are almost unfamiliar
to the people of the different levels.
The more thoughtful people read the abler
journals of the day; they read the editorials or
the more extended articles; they read also the
great literature. If they take up the sporting
page of a newspaper to read the account of a
ball game written in the style of the lower level
of thought, where words are misused in disregard
of the laws of the language, and where one
word is made to do duty for a great many ideas,
they do it solely for amusement. They could
never think of finding their mental stimulus in
that sort of thing. On the other hand, there are
people who find in that kind of reading their
real interest. If they should take up a
thoughtful editorial or a book of essays, they would
not know what the words mean in the connection
in which they are used. They speak a good deal
about the vividness of this lower-level language,
about its popularity; they speak with a sneer
about the stiffness and dignity of that upper

These are, however, only the two extremes,
for there is always a middle level where move
words common to both, where are avoided the
words peculiar to each. It is the language that
most people speak. It is the language of the
street, and also of the study, of the parlor, and
of the shop. But it has little that is peculiar
to either of those other levels, or to any one
place where a man may live his life and do his
talking. If we illustrate from other literature,
we can say that Macaulay's essays move on the
upper level, and that much of the so-called popular
literature of our day moves on the lower
level, while Dickens moves on the middle level,
which means that men whose habitual language
is that of the upper and the lower levels can both
enter into the spirit of his writing.

Now, originally the Bible moved on that middle
level. It was a colloquial book. The languages
in which it first appeared were not in the
classic forms. They are the languages of the
streets where they were written. The Hebrew
is almost our only example of the tongue at its
period, but it is not a literary language in any
case. The Greek of the New Testament is not
the Eolic, the language of the lyrics of Sappho;
nor the Doric, the language of war-songs or the
chorus in the drama; nor the Ionic, the dialect of
epic poetry; but the Attic Greek, and a corrupted
form of that, a form corrupted by use in
the streets and in the markets.

That was the original language of the Bible,
a colloquial language. But that fact does not
determine the translation. Whether it shall be
put into the English language on the upper
level or on the lower level is not so readily
determined. Efforts have been made to put it
into the language of each level. We have a so-
called elegant translation, and we have the
Bible cast into the speech of the common day.
The King James version is on the middle level.
It is a striking blending of the dignity of the
upper level and the popularity of the lower level.

There is tremendous significance in the fact
that these men were making a version which
should be for all people, making it out in the
open day with the king and all the people behind
them. It was the first independent version
which had been made under such favorable
circumstances. Most of the versions had been
made in private by men who were imperiling
themselves in their work. They did not expect
the Book to pass into common use; they knew
that the men who received the result of their
work would have to be those who were earnest
enough to go into secret places for their reading.
But here was a changed condition. These men
were making a version by royal authority, a
version awaited with eager interest by the people
in general. The result is that it is a people's
Book. Its phrases are those of common life,
those that had lived up to that time. It is not
in the peculiar language of the times. If you
want to know the language of their own times,
read these translators' servile, unhistorical dedication to the
king, or their far nobler preface to
the reader. That is the language peculiar to
their own day. But the language of the Bible
itself is that form which had lived its way into
common use. One hundred years after Wiclif
it yet speaks his language in large part, for
that part had really lived. In the Bibliotheca
Pastorum Ruskin makes comment on Sir Philip
Sidney and his metrical version of the Psalms in
these words: "Sir Philip Sidney will use any
cow-boy or tinker words if they only help him
to say precisely in English what David said in
Hebrew; impressed the while himself so vividly
of the majesty of the thought itself that no
tinker's language can lower it or vulgarize it in
his mind." The King James translators were
most eager to say what the original said, and
to say it so that the common man could well
understand it, and yet so that it should not be
vulgarized or cheapened by adoption of cheap

In his History Hallam passes some rather
sharp strictures on the English of the King James
version, remarking that it abounds in uncouth
phrases and in words whose meaning is not
familiar, and that whatever is to be said it is,
at any rate, not in the English of the time of
King James. And that latter saying is true,
though it must be remembered that Hallam
wrote in the period when no English was recognized
by literary people except that of the upper
level, when they did not know that these so-
called uncouth phrases were to return to common
use. To-day it would be absurd to say
that the Bible is full of uncouth phrases.
Professor Cook has said that "the movement of
English diction, which in the seventeenth and
eighteenth centuries was on the whole away
from the Bible, now returns with ever-accelerating
speed toward it." If the phrases went out,
they came back. But it is true that the English
of the King James version is not that of the time
of James I., only because it is the English of the
history of the language. It has not immortalized
for us the tongue of its times, because it has
taken that tongue from its beginning and determined
its form. It carefully avoided words
that were counted coarse. On the other hand,
it did not commit itself to words which were
simply refinements of verbal construction. That,
I say, is a general fact.

It can be illustrated in one or two ways. For
instance, a word which has become common to
us is the neuter possessive pronoun "its." That
word does not occur in the edition of 1611, and
appears first in an edition in the printing of
1660. In place of it, in the edition of 1611, the
more dignified personal pronoun "his" or "her"
is always used, and it continues for the most
part in our familiar version. In this verse you
notice it: "Look not upon the wine when it is
red; when it giveth HIS color aright in the cup."
In the Levitical law especially, where reference
is made to sacrifices, to the articles of the furniture
of the tabernacle, or other neuter objects,
the masculine pronoun is almost invariably
used. In the original it was invariably used.
You see the other form in the familiar verse
about charity, that it "doth not behave itself
unseemly, seeketh not HER own, is not easily
provoked." Now, there is evidence that the
neuter possessive pronoun was just coming into
use. Shakespeare uses it ten times in his works,
but ten times only, and a number of writers do
not use it at all. It was, to be sure, a word
beginning to be heard on the street, and for the
most part on the lower level. The King James
translators never used it. The dignified word
was that masculine or feminine pronoun, and
they always use it in place of the neuter.

On the other hand, there was a word which was
coming into use on the upper level which has become
common property to us now. It is the word
"anxiety." It is not certain just when it came
into use. I believe Shakespeare does not use it;
and it occurs very little in the literature of the
times. Probably it was known to these translators.
When they came, however, to translating
a word which now we translate by "anxious"
or "anxiety" they did not use that word.
It was not familiar. They used instead the word
which represented the idea for the people of the
middle level; they used the word "thought."
So they said, "Take no thought for the morrow,"
where we would say, "Be not anxious for
the morrow." There is a contemporary
document which illustrates how that word "thought"
was commonly used, in which we read: "In five
hundred years only two queens died in child
birth, Queen Catherine Parr having died rather
of thought." That was written about the time
of the King James version, and "thought"
evidently means worry or anxiety. Neither of
those words, the neuter possessive pronoun or
the new word "anxious," got into the King James
version. One was coming into proper use from
the lower level, and one was coming into proper
use from the upper level. They had not yet
so arrived that they could be used.

One result of this care to preserve dignity and
also popularity appears in the fact that so few
words of the English version have become obsolete.
Words disappear upward out of the upper
level or downward out of the lower level, but it
takes a long time for a word to get out of a
language once it is in confirmed use on the middle
level. Of course, the version itself has tended
to keep words familiar; but no book, no matter
how widely used, can prevent some words from
passing off the stage or from changing their
meaning so noticeably that they are virtually
different words. Yet even in those words which
do not become common there is very little tendency
to obsolescence in the King James version.
More words of Shakespeare have become obsolete
or have changed their meanings than in the
King James version.

There is one interesting illustration to which
attention has been called by Dr. Davidson,
which is interesting. In the ninth chapter of
the Judges, where we are told about Abimelech,
the fifty-third verse reads that a woman cast a
stone down from the wall and "all to break his
skull." That is confessedly rather obscure.
Our ordinary understanding of it would be that
she did that for no other purpose than just to
break the skull of Abimelech. As a matter of
fact, that expression is a printer's bungling way
of giving a word which has become obsolete in
the original form. When the King James translators
wrote that, they used the word "alto,"
which is evidently the beginning of "altogether,"
or wholly or utterly, and what they
meant was that she threw the stone and utterly
broke his skull. But that abbreviated form of
the word passed out of use, and when later
printers--not much later--came to it they did
not know what it meant and divided it as it
stands in our present text. It is one of the few
words that have become obsolete. But so few
are there of them, that it was made a rule of
the Revised Version not to admit to the new
version, where it could be avoided, any word
not already found in the Authorized Version,
and also not to omit from the Revised Version,
except under pressure of necessity, any word
which occurred there. It is largely this blending
of dignity and popularity that has made the
King James version so influential in English
literature. It talks the language not of the
upper level nor of the lower level, but of that
middle level where all meet sometimes and
where most men are all the while.

These are great traits to mark a book, any
book, but especially a translation--that it is
honest, that it is accurate, and that its language
blends dignity and popularity so that it lowers
the speech of none. They are all conspicuous
traits of our familiar version of the Bible, and
in them in part lies its power with the generations
of these three centuries that have followed its



LET it be plainly said at the very first that
when we speak of the literary phases of
the Bible we are not discussing the book in its
historic meaning. It was never meant as literature
in our usual sense of the word. Nothing
could have been further from the thought of
the men who wrote it, whoever they were and
whenever they wrote, than that they were
making a world literature. They had the
characteristics of men who do make great literature--
they had clear vision and a great passion for
truth; they loved their fellows mightily, and
they were far more concerned to be understood
than to speak. These are traits that go to make
great writers. But it was never in their minds
that they were making a world literature. The
Bible is a book of religious significance from
first to last. If it utterly broke down by the
tests of literature, it might be as great a book
as it needs to be. It is a subordinate fact that
by the tests of literature it proves also to be
great. Prof. Gardiner, of Harvard, whose book
called The Bible as English Literature makes
other such works almost unnecessary, frankly
bases his judgment on the result of critical study
of the Bible, but he serves fair warning that he
takes inspiration for granted, and thinks it
"obvious that no literary criticism of the Bible
could hope for success which was not reverent
in tone. A critic who should approach it superciliously
or arrogantly would miss all that has
given the Book its power as literature and its
lasting and universal appeal."[1] Farther over
in his book he goes on to say that when we
search for the causes of the feelings which made
the marvelous style of the Bible a necessity,
explanation can make but a short step, for "we
are in a realm where the only ultimate explanation
is the fact of inspiration; and that is only
another way of saying that we are in the presence
of forces above and beyond our present
human understanding."[2]

[1] Preface, p. vii.

[2] Page 124.

However, we may fairly make distinction between
the Bible as an original work and the
Bible as a work of English literature. For the
Bible as an original work is not so much a book
as a series of books, the work of many men working
separately over a period of at least fifteen
hundred years, and these men unconscious for
the most part of any purpose of agreement.
This series of books is made one book in the
original by the unity of its general purpose and
the agreement of its parts. The Bible in English
is, however, not a series of books, but properly
one book, the work of six small groups of
men working in conscious unity through a short
period of years. And while there is variation in
style, while there are inequalities in result, yet
it stands as a single piece of English literature.
It has a literary style of its own, even though
it feels powerfully the Hebrew influence throughout.
And while it would not be a condemnation
of the Bible if it were not great literature in
English or elsewhere, it is still part of its power
that by literary standards alone it measures

It is so that men of letters have rated it since
it came into existence. "It holds a place of
pre-eminence in the republic of letters." When
John Richard Green comes to deal with it, he
says: "As a mere literary monument the English
version of the Bible remains the noblest language
of the English tongue, while its perpetual use
made of it from the instant of its appearance
the standard of our language."[1] And in Macaulay's
essay on Dryden, while he is deploring
the deterioration of English style, he yet says
that in the period when the English language
was imperiled there appeared "the English
Bible, a book which if everything else in our
language should perish would alone suffice to
show the extent of its beauty and power."

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

The mere fact that the English Bible contains
a religion does not affect its standing as literature.
Homer and Virgil are Greek and Roman
classics, yet each of them contains a definite
religion. You can build up the religious faith
of the Greeks and Romans out of their great
literature. So you can build up the religious
faith of the Hebrews and the early Christians
from the Old and New Testaments. "For fifteen
centuries a Hebrew Book, the Bible, contained
almost the whole literature and learning of a
whole nation," while it was also the book of
their religion.

As literature, however, apart from its religious
connection, it is subject to any of the criteria
of literature. In so far it is the fair subject of
criticism. It must stand or fall when it enters
the realm of literature by the standards of other
books. Indeed, many questions regarding its
dates, the authorship of unassigned portions, the
meaning of its disputed passages may be
answered most fairly by literary tests. That
is always liable to abuse; but literary tests
are always liable to that. There have been
enough blunders made in the knowledge of us
all to require us to go carefully in such a matter.
The Waverley Novels were published anonymously,
and, while some suspected Scott at once,
others were entirely clear that on the ground of
literary style his authorship was entirely impossible!
Let a magazine publish an anonymous
serial, and readers everywhere are quick to
recognize the writer from his literary style and
his general ideas, but each group "recognizes"
a different writer. Arguments based chiefly on
style overlook the large personal equation in all
writing. The same writer has more than one
natural style. It is not until he becomes in a
certain sense affected--grows proud of his
peculiarities--that he settles down to one form.
And it is quite impossible to assign a book to
any narrow historical period on the ground of
its style alone. But though large emphasis
could be laid upon the literary merits of the
Bible to the obscuring of its other more important
merits, it is yet true that from the literary
point of view the Bible stands as an English
classic, indeed, as the outstanding English
classic. To acknowledge ignorance of it is to
confess one's self ignorant of our greatest literary

A moment ago it was said that as a piece of
literature the Bible must accept the standards
of other literary books. For all present purposes
we can define great literature as worthy
written expression of great ideas. If we may
take the word "written" for granted, the rough
definition becomes this: that great literature is
the worthy expression of great ideas. Works
which claim to be great in literature may fail
of greatness in either half of that test. Petty,
local, unimportant ideas may be well clothed,
or great ideas may be unworthily expressed; in
either case the literature is poor. It is not until
great ideas are wedded to worthy expression
that literature becomes great. Failure at one
end or the other will explain the failure of most
of the work that seeks to be accounted literature.
The literary value of a book cannot be determined
by its style alone. It is possible to
say nothing gracefully, even with dignity, symmetry,
rhythm; but it is not possible to make
literature without ideas. Abiding literature
demands large ideas worthily expressed. Now,
of course, "large" and "small" are not words
that are usually applied to the measurement of
ideas; but we can make them seem appropriate
here. Let us mean that an idea is large or
small according to its breadth of interest to the
race and its length of interest to the race. If
there is an idea which is of value to all the
members of the human race to-day, and which
does not lose its value as the generations come
and go, that is the largest possible idea within
human thought. Transient literature may do
without those large ideas. A gifted young reporter
may describe a dog fight or a presidential
nominating convention in such terms as lift his
article out of carelessness and hasty newspaper
writing into the realm of real literature; but it
cannot become abiding literature. It has not a
large enough idea to keep it alive. And to any
one who loves worthy expression there is a sense
of degradation in the use of fine literary powers
for the description of purely transient local
events. It is always regrettable when men with
literary skill are available for the description of
a ball game, or are exploited as worthy writers
about a prize-fight. If a man has power to
express ideas well, he ought to use that power
for the expression of great ideas.

Many of us have seen a dozen books hailed
as classic novels sure to live, each of them the
great American novel at last, the author to be
compared with Dickens and Thackeray and
George Eliot. And the books have gone the
way of all the earth. With some, the trouble
is a weak, involved, or otherwise poor style.
With most the trouble is lack of real ideas.
Charles Dickens, to be sure, does deal with
boarding-schools in England, with conditions
which in their local form do not recur and are
not familiar to us; but he deals with them as
involving a great principle of the relation of
society to youth, and so David Copperfield or
Oliver Twist becomes a book for the life of all
of us, and for all time. And even here it is
evident that not all of Dickens's work will live,
but only that which is least narrowly local and
is most broadly human.

There is a further striking illustration in a
familiar event in American history. Most young
people are required to study Webster's speech
in reply to Robert Hayne in the United States
Senate, using it as a model in literary construction.
The speech of Hayne is lost to our interest,
yet the fact is that Hayne himself was
gifted in expression, that by the standards of
simple style his speech compares favorably with
that of Webster. Yet reading Webster's reply
takes one not to the local condition which was
concerning Hayne, but to a great principle of
liberty and union. He shows that principle
emerging in history; the local touches are lost
to thought as he goes on, and a truth is expressed
in terms of history which will be valid until
history is ended. It is not simply Webster's
style; it is that with his great idea which made
his reply memorable.

That neither ideas nor style alone can keep
literature alive is shown by literary history after
Shakespeare. Just after him you have the
"mellifluous poets" of the next period on the
one hand, with style enough, but with such
attenuated ideas that their work has died. Who
knows Drayton or Brown or Wither? On the
other hand, there came the metaphysicians with
ideas in abundance, but not style, and their
works have died.

Here, then, is the English Bible becoming the
chief English classic by the wedding of great
ideas to worthy expression. From one point of
view this early seventeenth century was an
opportune time for making such a classic.
Theology was a popular subject. Men's minds
had found a new freedom, and they used it to
discuss great themes. They even began to sing.
The reign of Elizabeth had prepared the way.
The English scholar Hoare traces this new liberty
to the sailing away of the Armada and the
releasing of England from the perpetual dread of
Spanish invasion. He says that the birds felt
the free air, and sang as they had never sung
before and as they have not often sung since.
But this was not restricted to the birds of
English song. It was a period of remarkable
awakening in the whole intellectual life of
England, and that intellectual life was directing
itself among the common people to religion.
Another English writer, Eaton, says a profounder
word in tracing the awakening to the reformation,
saying that it "could not fail, from the
very nature of it, to tinge the literature of the
Elizabethan era. It gave a logical and disputatious
character to the age and produced men
mighty in the Scriptures."[1] A French visitor
went home disgusted because people talked of
nothing but theology in England. Grotius
thought all the people of England were
theologians. James's chief pride was his theological
learning. It did not prove difficult to find
half a hundred men in small England instantly
recognized as experts in Scripture study. The
people were ready to welcome a book of great
ideas. Let us pass by those ideas a moment,
remembering that they are not enough in them-
selves to give the work literary value, and turn
our minds to the style of the English Bible.

[1] T. R. Eaton, Shakespeare and the Bible, p. 2.

From this point of view the times were not
perfectly opportune for a piece of pure English
literature, though it was the time which
produced Shakespeare. A definite movement was
on to refine the language by foreign decorations.
Not even Shakespeare avoids it always. No
writer of the time avoids it wholly. The
dedication of the King James version shows that
these scholars themselves did not avoid it. In
that dedication, and their preface, they give us
fine writing, striving for effect, ornamental
phrases characteristic of the time. Men were
feeling that this English language was rough and
barbarous, insufficient, needing enlargement by
the addition of other words constructed in a
foreign form. The essays of Lord Bacon are
virtually contemporaneous with this translation.
Macaulay says a rather hard word in calling
his style "odious and deformed,"[1] but when
one turns from Bacon to the English Bible there
is a sharp contrast in mere style, and it favors
the Bible. The contrast is as great as that which
Carlyle first felt between the ideas of Shakespeare
and those of the Bible when he said that
"this world is a catholic kind of place; the
Puritan gospel and Shakespeare's plays: such
a pair of facts I have rarely seen save out of one
chimerical generation."[2] And that gives point
to the word already quoted from Hallam that
the English of the King James version is not
the English of James I.

[1] Essay on John Dryden.

[2] Historical Sketches, Hampton Court Conference.

Four things helped to determine the simplicity
and pure English--unornamented English--of
the King James version, made it, that
is, the English classic. Two of these things have
been dealt with already in other connections.
First, that it was a Book for the people, for the
people of the middle level of language; a work
by scholars, but not chiefly for scholars, intended
rather for the common use of common people.
Secondly, that the translators were constantly
beholden to the work of the past in this same
line. Where Wiclif's words were still in use
they used them. That tended to fix the language
by the use which had already become

The other two determining influences must be
spoken of now. The third lies in the fact that
the English language was still plastic. It had
not fallen into such hard forms that its words
were narrow or restricted. The truth is that
from the point of view of pure literature the
Bible is better in English than it is in Greek or
Hebrew. That is, the English of the King
James version as English is better than the Greek
of the New Testament as Greek. As for the
Hebrew there was little development for many
generations; Renan thinks there was none at all.
The difference comes from the point of time in
the growth of the tongue when the Book was
written. The Greek was written when the
language was old, when it had differentiated its
terms, when it had become corrupted by outside
influence. The English version was written
when the language was new and fresh, when a
word could be taken and set in its meaning
without being warped from some earlier usage.
The study of the Greek Testament is always
being complicated by the effort to bring into its
words the classical meaning, when so far as the
writers of the New Testament were concerned
they had no interest in the classical meaning,
but only in the current meaning of those words.
In the English language there was as yet no
classical meaning; it was exactly that meaning
that these writers were giving the words when
they brought them into their version.[1] There is
large advantage in the fact that the age was not
a scientific one, that the language had not
become complicated. So it becomes interesting to
observe with Professor March that ninety-three
per cent. of these words, counting also repetitions,
are native English words. The language was new,
was still plastic. It had not been stiffened by
use. It received its set more definitely from
the English Bible than from any other one
work--more than from Shakespeare, whose influence
was second.

[1] Trevelyan, England under the Stuarts, p. 54,

The fourth fact which helped to determine its
English style is the loyalty of the translators to
the original, notably the Hebrew. It is a common
remark of the students of the original
tongues that the Hebrew and Greek languages
are peculiarly translatable. That is notable in
the Hebrew. It is not a language of abstract
terms. The tendency of language is always to
become vague, since we are lazy in the use of it.
We use one word in various ways, and a pet one
for many ideas. Language is always more concrete
in its earlier forms. In this period of the
concrete English language, then, the translation
was made from the Hebrew, which was also a
concrete, figurative language itself. The structure
of the Hebrew sentence is very simple.
There are no extended paragraphs in it. It is
somewhat different in the New Testament,
where these paragraphs are found, certainly in
the Pauline Greek; but even there the extended
sentences are broken into clauses which can be
taken as wholes. The English version shows
constantly the marks of the Hebrew influence in
the simplicity of its phrasing. Renan says that
the Hebrew "knows how to make propositions,
but not how to link them into paragraphs." So
the earlier Bible stories are like a child's way of
talking. They let one sentence follow another,
and their unity is found in the overflowing use
of the word "and"--one fact hung to another
to make a story, but not to make an argument.
In the first ten chapters of I Samuel, for example,
there are two hundred and thirty-eight verses;
one hundred and sixty of them begin with AND.
There are only twenty-six of the whole which
have no connective word that thrusts them back
upon the preceding verse.

In the Hebrew language, also, most of the
emotions are connected either in the word used
or in the words accompanying it with the physical
condition that expresses it. Over and over
we are told that "he opened his mouth and
said," or, "he was angry and his countenance
fell." Anger is expressed in words which tell
of hard breathing, of heat, of boiling tumult, of
trembling. We would not trouble to say that.
The opening of the mouth to speak or the falling
of the countenance in anger, we would take
for granted. The Hebrew does not. Even in
the description of God you remember the terms
are those of common life; He is a shepherd when
shepherds are writing; He is a husbandman
threshing out the nations, treading the wine-
press until He is reddened with the wine--and
so on. That is the natural method of the Hebrew
language--concrete, vivid, never abstract,
simple in its phrasing. The King James translators
are exceedingly loyal to that original.

Professor Cook, of Yale, suggests that four
traits make the Bible easy to translate into any
language: universality of interest, so that there
are apt to be words in any language to express
what it means, since it expresses nothing but
what men all talk about; then, the concreteness
and picturesqueness of its language, avoiding
abstract phrases which might be difficult to
reproduce in another tongue; then, the simplicity
of its structure, so that it can be taken
in small bits, and long complicated sentences
are not needed; and, finally, its rhythm, so that
part easily follows part and the words catch a
kind of swing which is not difficult to imitate.
That is a very true analysis. The Bible is the
most easily translated book there is, and has
become the classic for more languages than any
other one book. It is brought about in part in
our English version by the faithfulness of the
translators to the original.

Passing from these general considerations,
let us look directly at the English Bible itself
and its literary qualities. The first thing that
attracts attention is its use of words, and since
words lie at the root of all literature it is worth
while to stop for them for a moment. Two
things are to be said about the words: first,
that they are few; and, secondly, that they are
short. The vocabulary of the English Bible is
not an extensive one. Shakespeare uses from
fifteen to twenty thousand words. In Milton's
verse he uses about thirteen thousand. In the
Old Testament, in the Hebrew and Chaldaic
tongue, there are fifty-six hundred and forty-
two words. In the New Testament, in the Greek,
there are forty-eight hundred. But in the whole
of the King James version there are only about
six thousand different words. The vocabulary
is plainly a narrow one for a book of its size.
While, as was said before, the translators avoided
using the same word always for translation of
the same original, they yet managed to recur
to the same words often enough so that this
comparatively small list of six thousand words,
about one-third Shakespeare's vocabulary, sufficed
for the stating of the truth.

Then, Secondly, the words are short, and in
general short words are the strong ones. The
average word in the whole Bible, including the
long proper names, is barely over four letters,
and if all the proper names are excluded the average
word is just a little under four letters. Of
course, another way of saying that is that the
words are generally Anglo-Saxon, and, while in
the original spelling they were much longer, yet
in their sound they were as brief as they are in
our present spelling. There is no merit in Anglo-
Saxon words except in the fact that they are
concrete, definite, non-abstract words. They
are words that mean the same to everybody;
they are part of common experience. We shall
see the power of such words by comparing a
simple statement in Saxon words from the
English Bible with a comment of a learned
theologian of our own time on them. The
phrase is a simple one in the Communion service:
"This is my body which is given for you."
That is all Saxon. When our theologian comes
to comment on it he says we are to understand
that "the validity of the service does not lie
in the quality of external signs and sacramental
representation, but in its essential property and
substantial reality." Now there are nine words
abstract in their meaning, Latin in their form.
It is in that kind of words that the Bible could
have been translated, and in our own day might
even be translated. Addison speaks of that:
"If any one would judge of the beauties of poetry
that are to be met with in the divine writings,
and examine how kindly the Hebrew manners of
speech mix and incorporate with the English
language, after having perused the Book of
Psalms, let him read a literal translation of
Horace or Pindar. He will find in these two
last such an absurdity and confusion of style
with such a comparative poverty of imagination,
as will make him very sensible of what I have
been here advancing."[1]

[1] The Spectator, No. 405.

The fact that the words are short can be
quickly illustrated by taking some familiar
sections. In the Ten Commandments there are
three hundred and nineteen words in all; two
hundred and fifty-nine of them are words of
one syllable, and only sixty are of two syllables
and over. There are fifty words of two syllables,
six of three syllables, of which four are such
composite words that they really amount to two
words of one and two syllables each, with four
words of four syllables, and none over that.
Make a comparison just here. There is a paragraph
in Professor March's lectures on the English
language where he is urging that its strongest
words are purely English, not derived from
Greek or Latin. He uses the King James version
as illustration. If, now, we take three
hundred and nineteen words at the beginning
of that paragraph to compare with the three
hundred and nineteen in the Ten Commandments,
the result will be interesting. Where
the Ten Commandments have two hundred and
fifty-nine words of one syllable, Professor March
has only one hundred and ninety-four; over
against the fifty two-syllable words in the Ten
Commandments, Professor March has sixty-five;
over against their six words of three syllables,
he has thirty-five; over against their four words
of four syllables, he uses eighteen; and while
the Ten Commandments have no word longer
than four syllables, Professor March needs five
words of five syllables and two words of six
syllables to express his ideas.[1]

[1] This table will show the comparison at a glance:

Syllables            1    2    3    4    5    6
The Commandments    259  50   6    4    0    0    319
Professor March     194  65   35   18   5    2    319

The same thing appears in the familiar 23d
Psalm, where there are one hundred and nineteen
words in all, of which ninety-five are words of
one syllable, and only three of three syllables,
with none longer. In the Sermon on the Mount
eighty two per cent. of the words in our English
version are words of one syllable.

The only point urged now is that this kind of
thing makes for strength in literature. Short
words are strong words. They have a snap and a
grip to them that long words have not. Very few
men would grow angry over having a statement
called a "prevarication" or "a disingenuous
entanglement of ideas," but there is something
about the word "lie" that snaps in a man's
face. "Unjustifiable hypothecation" may be
the same as stealing, but it would never excite
one to be called "an unjustifiable hypothecator"
as it does to be called a thief. At the very
foundation of the strength of the literature of the
English Bible there lies this tendency to short,
clear-cut words.

Rising now from this basal element in the
literature of the version, we come to the place
where its style and its ideas blend in what we
may call its earnestness. That is itself a literary
characteristic. There is not a line of trifling
in the book. No man would ever learn
trifling from it. It takes itself with tremendous
seriousness. Here are earnest men at work;
to them life is joyous, but it is no joke. That is
why the element of humor in it is such a small
one. It is there, to be sure. Many of its
similes are intended to be humorous. A few of
its incidents are humorous; but it has little
of that element in it, as indeed little of our literature has
that element markedly in it. We have
a few exceptions. But what George Eliot says
in Adam Bede is true, that wit is of a temporary
nature, and does not deal with the deep and
more lasting elements in life. The Bible is not
a sad book. There are children at play in it;
there are feasts and buoyant gatherings fully
recounted. But it never trifles nor jests.

So it has given us a language of great dignity.
Let Addison speak again: "How cold and dead
does a prayer appear that is composed in the
most elegant and polite forms of speech, which
are natural to our tongue, when it is not heightened
by that solemnity of phrase which may be
drawn from the sacred writings. It has been
said by some of the ancients that if the gods
were to talk with men, they would certainly
speak in Plato's style; but I think we may say,
with justice, that when mortals converse with
their Creator they cannot do it in so proper a
style as in that of the Holy Scriptures."

As that earnestness of the literature of the
original precluded any great amount of humor
in the wide range of its literary forms, so in the
King James version it precluded any trifling expressions, any
plays on words, even the duplication
of such plays as can be found in the Hebrew
or the Greek. You seldom find any turn of a
word in the King James version, though you do
occasionally find it in the Hebrew. One such
punning expression occurs in the story of Samson
(Judges xv:16), where our version reads:
"With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of an ass have I slain a thousand
men." In the Hebrew the words translated
"ass" and "heaps" are variants of the
same word. It comes near the Hebrew to say:
"With the jawbone of an ass, masses upon
masses," and so on. These translators would
not risk reproducing such puns for fear of lowering
the dignity of their results. There is a
deadly seriousness about their work and so
they never lose strength as they go on.

That earnestness grows out of a second fact
which may be emphasized--namely, the greatness
of the themes of Bible literature. Here is
history, but it is not cast into fiction form.
History always becomes more interesting for a first
reading when it is in the form of fiction; but it
always loses greatness in that form. Test it by
turning from a history of the American revolutionary
or civil war to an historical novel that
deals with the same period; or from a history
of Scotland to the Waverly novels. In some
degree the earnestness of the time is lost; the
same facts are there; but they do not loom so
large, nor do they seem so great. So there is
power in the fact that the historical elements
of the version are in stately form and are never
sacrificed to the fictional form.

These great themes save the work from being
local. It issues from life, but from life
considered in the large. The themes of great
literature are great enough to make their immediate
surroundings forgotten. "The English
Bible deals with the great facts and the great
problems. It is from the point of view of those
great facts that it handles even commonplace
things, and you forget the commonplaceness of
the things in the greatness of the dealing. Take
its attitude toward God. One needs the sense of
that great theme to read it fairly. It quietly
overlooks secondary causes, goes back of them
to God. Partly that was because the original
writers were ignorant of some of those secondary
causes; partly that they knew them, but wanted
to go farther back. Take the most outstanding
instance, that of the Book of Jonah. All its
facts, without exception, can be told without
mention of God, if one cared to do it. But
there could not be anything like so great a story
if it is told that way. One of his biographers
says of Lincoln that there is nothing in his whole
career which calls for explanation in other than
a purely natural and human way. That is true,
if one does not care to go any farther back than
that. But the greatest story cannot be made
out of Lincoln's life on those terms. There is
not material enough; the life must be delocalized.
It can be told without that larger view, so that
it will be of interest to America and American
children, but not so that it will be of value to
generations of men in all countries and under all
circumstances if it is told on those terms. Part
of the greatness of Scripture, from a literary
point of view, is that it has such a tremendous
range of theme, and is saved from a mere narration
of local events by seeing those events in the
light of larger considerations.

Let that stand for one of the great facts.
Now take one of the great problems. The thing
that makes Job so great a classic is the fact that,
while it is dealing with a character, he is standing
for the problem of undeserved suffering. A
man who has that before him, if he has at all
the gift of imagination, is sure to write in a far
larger way than when he is dealing with a man
with boils as though he were finally important.
One could deal with Job as a character, and do
a small piece of work. But when you deal
with Job as a type, a much larger opportunity

It is these great ideas, as to either facts or
problems, that give the seriousness, the earnestness
to the literature of the Bible. Men
who express great ideas in literary form are not
dilettante about them. One of the English
writers just now prominent as an essayist is
often counted whimsical, trifling. One of his
near friends keenly resents that opinion, insists
instead that he is dead in earnest, serious to the
last degree, purposeful in all his work. What
makes that so difficult to believe is that there is
always a tone of chaffing in his essays. He
seems always to be making fun of himself or of
other people; and if he is dead in earnest he has
the wrong style to make great literature or
literature that will live long.

It is that earnestness and greatness of theme
which puts the tang into the English of the
Bible. Coleridge says that "after reading Isaiah
or the Epistle to the Hebrews, Homer and Virgil
are disgustingly tame, Milton himself barely
tolerable." It need not be put quite so strongly
as that; but there is large warrant of fact in
that expression.

Go a little farther in thought of the literary
characteristics of the Bible. Notice the variety
of the forms involved. Recall Professor Moulton's
four cardinal points in literature, all of it
taking one of these forms: either description,
when a scene is given in the words of the author,
as when Milton and Homer describe scenes
without pretending to give the words of the
actors throughout; or, secondly, presentation,
when a scene is given in the words of those who
took part in it, and the author does not appear,
as, of course, in the plays of Shakespeare, when
he never appears, but where all his sentiments
are put in the words of others. As between
those two, the Bible is predominantly a book
of description, the authors for the most part
doing the speaking, though there is, of course,
an element of presentation. Professor Moulton
goes on with the two other phases of literary
form: prose, moving in the region limited by
facts, as history and philosophy deal only with
what actually has existence; and poetry, which
by its Greek origin means creative literature.
He reminds us that, however literature starts,
these are the points toward which it moves, the
paths it takes. All four of them appear in the
literature of the English Bible. You have more
of prose and less of poetry; but the poetry is
there, not in the sense of rhyme, but in the sense
of real creative literature.

A more natural way of considering the literature
has been followed by Professor Gardiner.
He finds four elements in the literature of the
Bible: its narrative, its poetry, its philosophizing,
and its prophecy. It is not necessary
for our purpose to go into details about that.
We shall have all we need when we realize that,
small as the volume of the book is, it yet does
cover all these types of literature. Its difference
from other books is that it deals with all of its
subjects so compactly.

It will accent this fact of its variety if we note
the musical element in the literature of the Bible.
It comes in part from the form which marks
the original Hebrew poetry. It has become familiar
to say that it is not of the rhyming kind.
Rather it is marked by the balancing of phrases
or of ideas, so that it runs in couplets or in
triplets throughout. In the Psalms there is
always a balance of clauses. They are sometimes
adversative; sometimes they are simply
cumulative. Take several instances from the
119th Psalm, each a complete stanza of Hebrew
poetry; (verse 15) "I will meditate in thy precepts, and have
respect unto thy ways"; or this
(verse 23), "Princes also did sit and speak
against me: but thy servant did meditate in
thy statutes"; or this (verse 45), "And I will
walk at liberty: for I seek thy precepts";
(verse 51,) "The proud have had me greatly in
derision: yet have I not inclined from thy law."
Each presents a parallel or a contrast of ideas.
That is the characteristic mark of Hebrew poetry.
It results in a kind of rhythm of the English
which makes it very easy to set to music.
Some of it can be sung, though for some of it
only the thunder is the right accompaniment.
But it is not simply in the balance of phrases
that the musical element appears. Sometimes
it is in a natural but rhythmic consecution of
ideas. The 35th chapter of Isaiah, for example,
is not poetic in the Hebrew, yet it is remarkably
musical in the English. Read it aloud from
our familiar version:

"The wilderness and the solitary place shall be
glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and
blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly,
and rejoice even with joy and singing; the glory of
Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of
Carmel and Sharon; they shall see the glory of the
Lord, and the excellency of our God. Strengthen ye
the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. Say
to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear
not: behold, your God will come with vengeance,
even God with a recompense; He will come and save
you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and
the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall
the lame man leap as a hart, and the tongue of the
dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break
out, and streams in the desert. And the parched
ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land
springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where
each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes. And
a highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be
called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not
pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring
men, though fools, shall not err therein. No
lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go
up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the
redeemed shall walk there: and the ransomed of the
Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and
everlasting joy upon their heads; they shall obtain
joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee

That can be set to music as it stands. You
catch the same form in the familiar 13th chapter
of I Corinthians, the chapter on Charity.
It could be almost sung throughout. This
musical element is in sharp contrast with much
else in the Scripture, where necessity does not
permit that literary form. For example, in the
Epistle to the Hebrews, which is argumentative
throughout, there is no part except its quotations
which has ever been set to music for uses in
Christian worship. It is rugged and protracted
in its form, and has no musical element about
it. The contrast within the Scripture of the
musical and the unmusical is a very marked

Add to the thought of the earnestness and
variety of the Scripture a word about the simplicity
of its literary expression. There is nothing
meretricious in its style. There is no effort
to say a thing finely. The translators have
avoided all temptation to grow dramatic in
reproducing the original. Contrast the actual
English Bible with the narratives or other literary
works that have been built up out of it.
Read all that the Bible tells about the loss
of Paradise, and then read Milton's "Paradise
Lost." Nearly all of the conceptions of Milton's
greatest poem are built up from brief
Scripture references. But Milton becomes subtle
in his analysis of motives; he enlarges greatly
on events. Scripture never does that. It gives
us very few analyses of motive from first to last.
That is not the method nor the purpose of
Scripture. It tells the story in terms that move
on the middle level of speech and the middle
level of understanding, while Milton labors with
it, complicates it, entangling it with countless

details which are to the Scripture unimportant.
It goes straight to the simple and fundamental
elements in the account. Take a more modern
illustration. Probably the finest poem of its
length in the English language is Browning's
"Saul." It is built out of one incident and a
single expression in the Bible story of Saul and
David. The incident is David's being called
from his sheep to play his harp and to sing
before Saul in the fits of gloom which overcome
him; the expression is the single saying that
David loved Saul. Taking that incident and
that expression, Browning writes a beautiful
poem with many decorative details, with keen
analysis of motive, with long accounts of the
way David felt when he rendered his service,
and how his heart leaped or sang. Imagine
finding Browning's familiar phrases in Scripture:
"The lilies we twine round the harp-chords,
lest they snap neath the stress of the noontide--
those sunbeams like swords"; "Oh, the wild joy
of living!" "Spring's arrowy summons," going
"straight to the aim." That is very well for
Browning, but it is not the Scripture way; it
is too complicated. All that the Bible says can
be said anywhere; Browning's "Saul" could not
possibly be reproduced in other languages. It
would need a glossary or a commentary to make
it intelligible. It is beautiful English, and great
because it has taken a great idea and clothed
it in worthy expression. But the simplicity of
the Bible narrative appears in sharp contrast
with it. In my childhood my father used to
tell of a man who preached on the creation,
and with great detail and much elaboration and
decoration told the story of creation as it is
suggested in the first chapter of Genesis. When it
was over he asked an old listener what he thought
of his effort, and the only comment was, "You
can't beat Moses!" Well, it would be difficult
to surpass these Bible writers in simplicity, in
going straight to the point, and making that
plain and leaving it. Where the Bible takes a
hundred words to tell the whole story Browning
takes several hundred lines to tell it.

The simplicity of the Bible is largely because
there is so little abstract reasoning in it. Having
few or no abstract ideas, it does not need abstract
words. Rather, it groups its whole movement
around characters. Three eminent literary men
were once asked to select the best reviews of a
novel which had just appeared. One of the
three statements which they rated highest said
of the book that it "achieves the true purpose
of a novel, which is to make comprehensible the
philosophy of life of a whole community or race
of men by showing us how that philosophy accords
with the impulses and yearnings of typical
individuals." Few phrases could be more foreign
to Bible phrases than those. But there is
valuable suggestion in it for more than the
literature of the novel. That is exactly what the
Scripture does. Its reasoning is kept concrete
by the fact that it is dealing with characters
more than movements, and so it can speak in
concrete words. That always makes for simplicity.

There are two elements common to the history
of literature about which a special word
is deserved. I mean the dramatic and the oratorical
elements. The difference between the
dramatic and the oratorical is chiefly that in
dramatic writing there is a scene in which many
take part, and in the oratorical writing one man
presents the whole scene, however dramatic the
surroundings. There is not a great deal of either
in the Scripture. There is no formal drama,
nothing that could be acted as it stands. It is
true, to be sure, that Job can be cast into dramatic
form by a sufficient manipulation, but it
is quite unlikely, in spite of some scholars, that
it was ever meant to be a formal drama for
action. It does move in cycles in the appearance
of its characters, and it does close in a way
to take one back to the beginning. It has many
marks of the drama, and yet it seems very unlikely
that it was ever prepared with that definitely
in mind. On the other hand, a most
likely explanation of the Song of Solomon is
that it is a short drama which appears in our
Bible without any character names, as though
you should take "Hamlet" and print it continuously,
indicating in no way the change of
speakers nor any movement. The effort has
been measurably successful to discover and insert
the names of the probable speakers. That
seems to be the one exception to the general
statement that there is no formal drama in the
Scripture. But there are some very striking
dramatic episodes, and they are made dramatic
for us very largely by the way they are told.
One of the earlier is in I Kings xviii:21-39. It
is almost impossible to read it aloud without
dramatic expression:

"And Elijah came unto all the people, and said,
How long halt ye between two opinions? if the Lord
be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him.
And the people answered him not a word. Then
said Elijah unto the people, I, even I only, remain
a prophet of the Lord; but Baal's prophets are four
hundred and fifty men. Let them therefore give us
two bullocks; and let them choose one bullock for
themselves, and cut it in pieces, and lay it on wood,
and put no fire under; and I will dress the other
bullock, and lay it on wood, and put no fire under:
and call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call
on the name of the Lord: and the God that answereth
by fire, let him be God. And all the people
answered and said, It is well spoken. And Elijah
said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock
for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are
many; and call on the name of your gods, but put
no fire under. And they took the bullock which
was given them, and they dressed it, and called on
the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying,
O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that
answered. And they leaped upon the altar which
was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah
mocked them, and said, Cry aloud; for he is a god;
either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or, he is in a
journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be
awakened. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves
after their manner with knives and lancets,
till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came
to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied
until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice,
that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor
any that regarded. And Elijah said unto all the people,
Come near unto me. And all the people came
near unto him. And he repaired the altar of the
Lord that was broken down. And Elijah took
twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes
of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the
Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name. And
with the stones he built an altar in the name of the
Lord; and he made a trench about the altar, as great
as would contain two measures of seed. And he put
the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and
laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with
water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the
wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And
they did it the second time. And he said, Do it
the third time. And they did it the third time.
And the water ran round about the altar; and he
filled the trench also with water. And it came to
pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that
Elijah the prophet came near, and said,
Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be
known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that
I am thy servant, and that I have done all these
things at thy word. Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that
this people may know that thou art the Lord God,
and that thou hast turned their heart back again.
Then the fire of the Lord fell, and consumed the
burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and
the dust, and licked up the water that was in the
trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell
on their faces: and they said, The Lord, he is the
God; the Lord, he is the God."

That is not simply a dramatic event; that is
a striking telling of it. It is more than a narrative.
In narrative literature the scene is accepted
as already constructed. In dramatic
literature such appeal is made to the imagination
that the reader reconstructs the scene for himself.
We are not told in this how Elijah felt,
or how he acted, nor how the people as a whole
looked, nor the setting of the scene; but if one
reads it with care it makes its own setting. The
scene constructs itself.

The dramatic style does not prevail at most
important points of the Scripture, because it is
a fictitious style for the presenting of truth. It
inevitably suggests superficiality. Things actually
do not happen in life as they do in drama.

One of our latest biographers says that a
scientific historian is always suspicious of dramatic
events.[1] They may be true, but they
are more liable to be afterthoughts, like the
bright answers we could have made to our opponents
if we had only thought of them at the
time. You never lose the sense of unreality in
the very construction of a drama. Life cannot
be crowded into two or three hours, and justice
does not come out as the drama makes it do.
So that at most important points of the Scripture
dramatic writing does not appear. The
account of the carrying away into captivity of
the children of Israel is at no point dramatic,
though you can see instantly what a great opportunity
there was for it. It is simply narrative.
It is noticeable that none of the accounts
of the crucifixion is at all dramatic. They are
all simply narrative. The imagination does not
immediately conjure up the scene. There may
be two reasons for that. One is that there are
involved several hours in which there is no
action recorded. The other is that by the time
the accounts were written the actual events
were submerged in importance by their unworded
meaning. The account of the conversion of
Paul, on the other hand, brief as it is, has at
least minor dramatic elements in it. On the
whole, the Old Testament is far more dramatic
than the New.

[1] McGiffert, Life of Martin Luther.

There is even less of the oratorical element in
the Scripture. There is, to be sure, a considerable
amount of quotation, and men do speak at
some length, but seldom oratorically. The
prophetical writings are generally too fragmentary
to suggest oratory, and the quotations in the
New Testament, especially from the preaching
of our Lord, are evidently for the most part
excerpts from longer addresses than are given.
There are few of the statements of Paul, as in
the 26th chapter of Acts, which could be delivered
oratorically; but here again the Old
Testament is more marked than the New. The
earliest specimen of oratory is also one of the
finest specimens. It is in the 44th chapter of
Genesis, and is the account of Judah's reply to
his unrecognized brother Joseph:

"Then Judah came near unto him, and said, O my
lord, let thy servant, I pray thee, speak a word in
my lord's ears, and let not thine anger burn against
thy servant: for thou art even as Pharoah. My lord
asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a
brother? And we said unto my lord, We have a
father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a
little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is
left of his mother, and his father loveth him. And
thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto
me, that I may set mine eyes upon him. And we
said unto my lord, The lad cannot leave his father:
for if he should leave his father, his father would die. And thou
saidst unto thy servant, Except your
youngest brother come down with you, ye shall see
my face no more. And it came to pass when we
came up unto thy servant my father, we told him the
words of my lord. And our father said, Go again
and buy us a little food. And we said, We cannot
go down; if our youngest brother be with us, then we
will go down: for we may not see the man's face,
except our youngest brother be with us. And thy
servant my father said unto us, Ye know that my
wife bare me two sons: and the one went out from
me, and I said, Surely he is torn in pieces; and I
saw him not since: and if ye take this also from me,
and mischief befall him, ye shall bring down my gray
hairs with sorrow to the grave. Now therefore when
I come to thy servant my father, and the lad be not
with us; seeing that his life is bound up in the lad's
life; it shall come to pass, when he seeth that the
lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants
shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our
father with sorrow to the grave. For thy servant
became surety for the lad unto my father, saying,
If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the
blame to my father for ever. Now therefore, I pray
thee, let thy servant abide instead of the lad a bondman to my
lord; and let the lad go up with his brethren. For how shall I go
up to my father, and the lad be not with me? lest peradventure I
see the evil that shall come on my father."

That is pure oratory, and it is greatly helped
by the English expression of it. Here our King
James version is finer than either of the other
later versions, as indeed it is in almost all these
sections where the phraseology is important for
the ear.

We need not go farther. Part of these outstanding
characteristics come to our version
from the original, and might appear in any version
of the Bible. Yet nowhere do even these
original characteristics come to such prominence
as in the King James translation; and it adds
to them those that are peculiar to itself.



THE Bible is a book-making book. It is
literature which provokes literature.

It would be a pleasure to survey the whole
field of literature in the broadest sense and to
note the creative power of the King James version;
but that is manifestly impossible here.
Certain limitations must be frankly made.
Leave on one side, therefore; the immense body
of purely religious literature, sermons, expositions,
commentaries, which, of course, are the
direct product of the Bible. No book ever
caused so much discussion about itself and its
teaching. That is because it deals with the
fundamental human interest, religion. It still
remains true that the largest single department
of substantial books from our English presses is
in the realm of religion, and after the purely
recreative literature they are probably most
widely read. Yet, they are not what we mean
at this time by the literary result of the English

Leave on one side also the very large body
of political and historical writing. Much of it
shows Bible influence. In the nature of the
case, any historian of the past three hundred
years must often refer to and quote from the
English Bible, and must note its influence. An
entire study could be devoted to the influence
of the English Bible on Green or Bancroft or
Freeman or Prescott--its influence on their
matter and their manner. Another could be
given to its influence on political writing and
speaking. No great orator of the day would fail
us of material, and the great political papers
and orations of the past would only widen the
field. Yet while some of this political and historical
writing is recognized as literature, most
of it can be left out of our thought just

It may aid in the limiting of the field to
accept what Dean Stanley said in another connection:
"By literature, I mean those great
works that rise above professional or commonplace
uses and take possession of the mind of
a whole nation or a whole age."[1] This is one
of the matters which we all understand until
we begin to define it; we know what we mean
until some one asks us.

[1] Thoughts that Breathe.

The literature of which we are thinking in this
narrower sense is in the sphere of art rather than
in the sphere of distinct achievement. De
Quincey's division is familiar: the literature of
knowledge, and the literature of power. The
function of the first is to teach; the function of
the second is to move. Professor Dowden
points out that between the two lies a third
field, the literature of criticism. It seeks both
to teach and to move. Our concern is chiefly
with De Quincey's second field--the literature
of power. In the first field, the literature of
knowledge, must lie all history, with Hume and
Gibbon; all science, with Darwin and Fiske;
all philosophy, with Spencer and William James;
all political writing, with Voltaire and Webster.
Near that same field must lie many of those
essays in criticism of which Professor Dowden
speaks. This which we omit, this literature of
knowledge, is powerful literature, though its
main purpose is not to move, but to teach.
We are only reducing our field so that we can
survey it. For our uses just now we shall
find pure literature taking the three standard
forms: the poem, the essay, and the story. It
is the influence of the English Bible on this
large field of literature which we are to observe.

Just for safety's sake, accept another narrowing
of the field. The effect of the Bible and its
religious teaching, on the writer himself is a
separate study, and is for the most part left out
of consideration. It sounds correct when Milton
says: "He who would not be frustrate of
his Power to write well ought himself to be a
true poem." But there is Milton himself to
deal with; irreproachable in morals, there are
yet the unhappy years of his young wife to
trouble us, and there were his daughters, who
were not at peace with him, and whom after
their service in his blindness he yet stigmatizes
in his will as "undutiful children." Then, if
you think of Shelley or Byron, you are troubled
by their lives; or even Carlyle, the very master
of the Victorian era--one would not like to scan
his life according to the laws of true poetry.
Then there is Coleridge, falling a prey to opium
until, as years came, conscience and will seemed
to go. Only a very ardent Scot will feel that he
can defend Robert Burns at all points, and we
would be strange Americans if we felt that
Edgar Allen Poe was a model of propriety. That
is a large and interesting field, but the Bible
seems even to gain power as a book-making book
when it lays hold on the book-making proclivities
of men who are not prepared to yield to its
personal power. They may get away from it
as religion; they do not get away from it as

The first and most notable fact regarding the
influence of the Bible on English literature is
the remarkable extent of that influence. It is
literally everywhere. If every Bible in any
considerable city were destroyed, the Book could
be restored in all its essential parts from the
quotations on the shelves of the city public
library. There are works, covering almost all
the great literary writers, devoted especially to
showing how much the Bible has influenced them.

The literary effect of the King James version
at first was less than its social effect; but in
that very fact lies a striking literary influence.
For a long time it formed virtually the whole
literature which was readily accessible to ordinary
Englishmen. We get our phrases from a
thousand books. The common talk of an intelligent
man shows the effect of many authors
upon his thinking. Our fathers got their phrases
from one great book. Their writing and their
speaking show the effect of that book.

It is a study by itself, and yet it is true that
world literature is, as Professor Moulton puts it,
the autobiography of civilization. "A national
literature is a reflection of the national history."
Books as books reflect their authors. As literature
they reflect the public opinion which gives
them indorsement. When, therefore, public
opinion: keeps alive a certain group of books,
there is testimony not simply to those books,
but to the public opinion which has preserved
them. The history of popular estimates of literature
is itself most interesting. On the other
hand, some writers have been amusingly overestimated.
No doubt Edward Fitzgerald, who gave
us the "Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" did
some other desirable work; but Professor Moulton
quotes this paragraph from a popular life of
Fitzgerald, published in Dublin: "Not Greece
of old in her palmiest days--the Greece of Homer
and Demosthenes, of Eschylus, Euripides, and
Sophocles, of Pericles, Leonidas, and Alcibiades,
of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, of Solon and
Lycurgus, of Apelles and Praxiteles--not even
this Greece, prolific as she was in sages and
heroes, can boast such a lengthy bead-roll as
Ireland can of names immortal in history!"
But "this was for Irish consumption." And
popular opinion and even critical opinion has
sometimes gone far astray in its destructive
tendency. There were authoritative critics who
declared that Wordsworth, Shelley, and Coleridge
wrote "unintelligible nonsense." George
Meredith's style, especially in his poetry, was
counted so bad that it--was not worth reading.
We are all near enough the Browning epoch to
recall how the obscurity of his style impressed
some and oppressed others. Alfred Austin, in
1869, said that "Mr. Tennyson has no sound
pretensions to be called a great poet."
Contemporary public opinion is seldom a final
gauge of strength for a piece of literature. It
takes the test of time. How many books we
have seen come on the stage and then pass off
again! Yet the books that have stayed on the
stage have been kept there by public opinion
expressing itself in the long run. The social
influence of the King James version, creating a
public taste for certain types of literature, tended
to produce them at once.

English literature in these three hundred
years has found in the Bible three influential
elements: style, language, and material.

First, the style of the King James version has
influenced English literature markedly. Professor
Gardiner opens one of his essays with the
dictum that "in all study of English literature,
if there be any one axiom which may be accepted
without question, it is that the ultimate standard
of English prose style is set by the King
James version of the Bible."[1] You almost
measure the strength of writing by its agreement
with the predominant traits of this version.
Carlyle's weakest works are those that
lose the honest simplicity of its style in a forced
turgidity and affected roughness. His Heroes
and Hero Worship or his French Revolution
shows his distinctive style, and yet shows the
influence of this simpler style, while his Frederick
the Great is almost impossible because he has
given full play to his broken and disconnected
sentences. On the other hand, Macaulay fails
us most in his striving for effect, making nice
balance of sentences, straining his "either-or,"
or his "while-one-was-doing-this-the-other-was-
doing-that." Then his sentences grow involved,
and his paragraphs lengthen, and he swings
away from the style of the King James version.
"One can say that if any writing departs very
far from the characteristics of the English Bible
it is not good English writing."

[1] Atlantic Monthly, May, 1900, p. 684.

The second element which English literature
finds in the Bible is its LANGUAGE. The words of
the Bible are the familiar ones of the English
tongue, and have been kept familiar by the use
of the Bible. The result is that "the path of
literature lies parallel to that of religion. They
are old and dear companions, brethren indeed
of one blood; not always agreeing, to be sure;
squabbling rather in true brotherly fashion now
and then; occasionally falling out very seriously
and bitterly; but still interdependent and necessary
to each other."[1] Years ago a writer remarked
that every student of English literature,
or of English speech, finds three works or subjects
referred to, or quoted from, more frequently
than others. These are the Bible, tales of Greek
and Roman mythology, and Aesop's Fables. Of
these three, certainly the Bible furnishes the
largest number of references. There is reason
for that. A writer wants an audience. Very
few men can claim to be independent of the
public for which they write. There is nothing
the public will be more apt to understand and
appreciate quickly than a passing reference to
the English Bible. So it comes about that when
Dickens is describing the injustice of the Murdstones
to little David Copperfield, he can put
the whole matter before us in a parenthesis:
"Though there was One once who set a child
in the midst of the disciples." Dickens knew
that his readers would at once catch the meaning
of that reference, and would feel the contrast
between the scene he was describing and that
simple scene. Take any of the great books of
literature and black out the phrases which manifestly
come directly from the English Bible, and
you would mark them beyond recovery.

[1] Chapman, English Literature in Account with Religion.

But English literature has found more of its
material in the Bible than anything else. It has
looked there for its characters, its illustrations,
its subject-matter. We shall see, as we consider
individual writers, how many of their titles and
complete works are suggested by the Bible.
It is interesting to see how one idea of the
Scripture will appear and reappear among many
writers. Take one illustration. The Faust story
is an effort to make concrete one verse of Scripture:
"What shall it profit a man if he shall
gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"
Professor Moulton reminds us that the Faust
legend appeared first in the Middle Ages. In
early English, Marlowe has it, Calderon put it
into Spanish, the most familiar form of it is
Goethe's, while Philip Bailey has called his
account of it Festus. In each of those forms
the same idea occurs. A man sells his soul to
the devil for the gaining of what is to him the
world. That is one of a good many ideas which
the Bible has given to literature. The prodigal
son has been another prolific source of literary
writing. The guiding star is another. Others
will readily come to mind.

With that simple background let our minds
move down the course of literary history. Style,
language, material--we will easily think how
much of each the Bible has given to all our great
writers if their names are only mentioned. There
are four groups of these writers.

1. The Jacobean, who wrote when and just
after our version was made.

2. The Georgian, who graced the reigns of
the kings whose name the period bears.

3. The Victorian.

4. The American.

There is an attractive fifth group comprising
our present-day workers in the realm of pure
literature, but we must omit them and give our
attention to names that are starred.

It is familiar that in the time of Elizabeth,
"England became a nest of singing birds." In
the fifty years after the first English theater was
erected, the middle of Elizabeth's reign, fifty
dramatic poets appeared, many of the first
order. Some were distinctly irreligious, as were
many of the people whose lives they touched.
Such men as Ford, Marlowe, Massinger, Webster,
Beaumont, and Fletcher stand like a chorus
around Shakespeare and Ben Jonson as leaders.
As Taine puts it: "They sing the same piece
together, and at times the chorus is equal to the
solo; but only at times."[1] Cultured people
to-day know the names of most of these writers,
but not much else, and it does not heavily serve
our argument to say that they felt the Puritan
influence; but they all did feel it either directly
or by reaction.

[1] History of English Literature, chap. iii.

Edmund Spenser and his friend, Sir Philip
Sidney, had closed their work before the King
James version appeared, yet the Faerie Queene
in its religious theory is Puritan to the core,
and Sidney is best remembered by his paraphrases
of Scripture. The influence of both
was even greater in the Jacobean than in their
own period.

It is hardly fair even to note the Elizabethan
Shakespeare as under the influence of the King
James version. The Bible influenced him markedly,
but it was the Genevan version prepared
during the exile of the scholars under Bloody
Mary, or the Bishops' Bible prepared under
Elizabeth. Those versions were familiar as
household facts to him. "No writer has
assimilated the thoughts and reproduced the
words of Holy Scripture more copiously than
Shakespeare." Dr. Furnivall says that "he is
saturated with the Bible story," and a century
ago Capel Lloft said quaintly that Shakespeare
"had deeply imbibed the Scriptures." But the
King James version appeared only five years
before his death, and it is in some sense fairer
to say that Shakespeare and the King James
version are formed by the same influence as
to their English style. The Bishop of St.
Andrews even devotes the first part of his book
on Shakespeare and the Bible to a study of
parallels between the two in peculiar forms of
speech, and thinks it "probable that our translators
of 1611 owed as much to Shakespeare as,
or rather far more than, he owed to them."[1]
It is generally agreed that only two of his works
were written after our version appeared. Several
other writers have devoted separate volumes
to noting the frequent use by Shakespeare
of Biblical phrases and allusions and characters
taken from early versions. It is a very tempting
field, and we pass it by only because it is hardly
in the range of the study we are now making.

[1] Wordsworth, Shakespeare's Knowledge and Use of the Bible, p.

When, however, we come to John Milton
(1608-1674), we remember he was only three
years old when our version was issued; that
when at fifteen, an undergraduate in Cambridge,
he made his first paraphrases, casting two of
the Psalms into meter, the version he used was
this familiar one. A biographer says he began
the day always with the reading of Scripture and
kept his memory deeply charged with its phrases.
In later life the morning chapter was generally
from the Hebrew, and was followed by an hour
of silence for meditation, an exercise whose
influence no man's style could escape. As a
writer he moved steadily toward the Scripture
and the religious teaching which it brought his
age. His earlier writing is a group of poems
largely secular, which yet show in phrases and
expressions much of the influence of his boyhood
study of the Bible, as well as the familiar use of
mythology. The memorial poem "Lycidas,"
for example, contains the much-quoted reference
to Peter and his two keys--

 "Last came and last did go
 The pilot of the Galilean lake;
 Two massy keys he bore of metals twain,
 (The golden opes, the iron shuts amain)."

But after these poems came the period of his
prose, the work which he supposed was the abiding
work of his life. George William Curtis told
a friend that our civil war changed his own
literary style: "That roused me to see that I
had no right to spend my life in literary leisure.
I felt that I must throw myself into the struggle
for freedom and the Union. I began to lecture
and to write. The style took care of itself.
But I fancy it is more solid than it was thirty
years ago." That is what happened to Milton
when the protectorate came.[1] It made his style
more solid. He did not mean to live as a poet.
He felt that his best energies were being put into
his essays in defense of liberty, on the freedom
of the press and on the justice of the beheading
of Charles, in which service he sacrificed his
sight. All of it is shot through with Scripture
quotations and arguments, and some of it, at
least, is in the very spirit of Scripture. The plea
for larger freedom of divorce issued plainly from
his own bitter experience; but his main argument
roots in a few Bible texts taken out of
their connection and urged with no shadow of
question of their authority. Indeed, when he
comes to his more religious essays, his heavy
argument is that there should be no religion
permitted in England which is not drawn directly
from the Bible; which, therefore, he urges
must be common property for all the people.
There is a curious bit of evidence that the men
of his own time did not realize his power as a
poet. In Pierre Bayle's critical survey of the
literature of the time, he calls Milton "the
famous apologist for the execution of Charles
I.," who "meddled in poetry and several of whose
poems saw the light during his life or after his
death!" For all that, Milton was only working
on toward his real power, and his power was to
be shown in his service to religion. His three
great poems, in the order of their value, are, of
course, "Paradise Lost," "Samson Agonistes,"
and "Paradise Regained." Whoever knows anything
of Milton knows these three and knows
they are Scriptural from first to last in phrase,
in allusion, and, in part at least, in idea. There
is not time for extended illustration. One instance
may stand for all, which shall illustrate
how Milton's mind was like a garden where the
seeds of Scripture came to flower and fruit. He
will take one phrase from the Bible and let it
grow to a page in "Paradise Lost." Here is an
illustration which comes readily to hand. In
the Genesis it is said that "the spirit of God
moved on the face of the waters." The verb
suggests the idea of brooding. There is only
one other possible reference (Psalm xxiv: 9.)
which is included in this statement which Milton
makes out of that brief word in the Genesis:

               "On the watery calm
 His broadening wings the Spirit of God outspread,
 And vital virtue infused, and vital warmth
 Throughout the fluid mass, but downward purged
 The black tartareous cold infernal dregs,
 Adverse to life; then formed, then con-globed,
 Like things to like; the rest to several place
 Disparted, and between spun out the air--
 And earth self-balanced on her center swung."

[1] Strong, The Theology of the Poets.

Any one familiar with Milton will recognize
that as a typical instance of the way in which
a seed idea from the Scripture comes to flower
and fruit in him. The result is that more people
have their ideas about heaven and hell from
Milton than from the Bible, though they do not
know it.

It seems hardly fair to use John Bunyan
(1628-1688) as an illustration of the influence
of the English Bible on literature, because his
chief work is composed so largely in the language
of Scripture. Pilgrim's Progress is the most
widely read book in the English language after
the Bible. Its phrases, its names, its matter
are either directly or indirectly taken from the
Bible. It has given us a long list of phrases
which are part of our literary and religious
capital. Thackeray took the motto of one of
his best-known books from the Bible; but the
title, Vanity Fair, comes from Pilgrim's Progress.
When a discouraged man says he is "in the
slough of despond," he quotes Bunyan; and
when a popular evangelist tells the people that
the burden of sin will roll away if they look at
the cross, "according to the Bible," he ought
to say according to Bunyan. But all this was
only the outcome of the familiarity of Bunyan
with the Scripture. It was almost all he did
know in a literary way. Macaulay says that
"he knew no language but the English as it
was spoken by the common people; he had
studied no great model of composition, with the
exception of our noble translation of the Bible.
But of that his knowledge was such that he might
have been called a living concordance."[1]

[1] History of England, vol. III., p. 220.

After these three--Shakespeare, Milton, and
Bunyan--there appeared another three, very
much their inferiors and having much less
influence on literary history. I mean Dryden,
Addison, and Pope. It is not necessary to credit
the Scripture with much of Dryden's spirit, nor
with much of his style, and certainly not with
his attitude toward his fellows; but it is a constant
surprise in reading Dryden to discover
how familiar he was with the King James version.
Walter Scott insists that Dryden was at
heart serious, that "his indelicacy was like the
forced impudence of a bashful man." That is
generous judgment. But there is this to be
said: as he grows more serious he falls more
into Bible words. If he writes a political pamphlet
he calls it "Absalom and Ahithophel."
In it he holds the men of the day up to scorn
under Bible names. They are Zimri and Shimei,
and the like. When he is falling into bitterest
satire, his writing abounds in these Biblical
allusions which could be made only by one who
was very familiar with the Book. Quotations
cannot be abundant, of course, but there is a
great deal of this sort of thing:

 "Sinking, he left his drugget robe behind,
 Borne upward by a subterranean wind,
 The mantle fell to the young prophet's part,
 With double portion of his father's art."

In his Epistles there is much of the same sort.
When he writes to Congreve he speaks of the
fathers, and says:

 "Their's was the giant race before the flood."

Farther on he says:

 "Our builders were with want of genius curst,
 The second temple was not like the first."

Now Dryden may have been, as Macaulay said,
an "illustrious renegade," but all his writing
shows the influence of the language and the
ideas of the King James version. Whenever we
sing the "Veni Creator" we sing John Dryden.

So we sing Addison in the paraphrase of
Scripture, which Haydn's music has made

 "The spacious firmament on high,
 With all the blue ethereal sky."

While Dryden yielded to his times, Addison did
not, and the Spectator became not only a literary
but a moral power. In the effort to make it so
he was thrown back on the largest moral influence
of the day, the Bible, and throughout
the Spectator and through all of Addison's
writing you find on all proper occasions the
Bible pressed to the front. Here again Taine
puts it strikingly: "It is no small thing to make
morality fashionable; Addison did it, and it
remains fashionable."

If we speak of singing, we may remember
that we sing the hymn of even poor little dwarfed
invalid Alexander Pope. He was born the year
Bunyan died, born at cross-purposes with the
world. He could write a bitter satire, like the
"Dunciad"; he could give the world The Iliad
and The Odyssey in such English that we know
them far better than in the Greek of Homer;
but in those rare moments when he was at his
better self he would write his greater poem,
"The Messiah", in which the movement of
Scripture is outlined as it could be only by one
who knew the English Bible. And when we

 "Rise, crowned with light, imperial Salem, rise"--

it is worth while to realize that the voice that
first sung it was that of the irritable little poet
who found some of his scant comfort in the grand
words and phrases and ideas of our English

With these six--Shakespeare, Milton, Bunyan,
Dryden, Addison, and Pope--the course of the
Jacobean literature is sufficiently measured.
There are many lesser names, but these are the
ones which made it an epoch in literature, and
these are at their best under the power of the

In the Georgian group we need to call only
five great names which have had creative influence
in literature. Ordinary culture in literature
will include some acquaintance with each
of them. In the order of their death they are
Shelley (1829.), Byron (1824), Coleridge (1831),
Walter Scott (1832), and Wordsworth (1850).
The last long outlived the others; but he belongs
with them, because he was born earlier
than any other in the group and did his chief
work in their time and before the later group
appeared. Except Wordsworth, all these were
gone before Queen Victoria came to the throne
in 1837. Three other names could be called:
Keats, Robert Burns, and Charles Lamb. All
would illustrate what we are studying. Keats
least of all and Burns most. They are omitted
here not because they did not feel the influence
of the English Bible, not because they do not
constantly show its influence, but because they
are not so creative as the others; they have not
so influenced the current of literature. At any
rate, the five named will represent worthily and
with sufficient completeness the Georgian period
of English literature.

Nothing could reveal more clearly than this
list how we are distinguishing the Bible as
literature from the Bible as an authoritative
book in morals. One would much dislike to
credit the Bible with any part of the personal life
of Shelley or Byron. They were friends; they,
were geniuses; but they were both badly afflicted
with common moral leprosy. It is playing with
morals to excuse either of them because he was
a genius. Nothing in the genius of either demanded
or was served by the course of cheap
immorality which both practised. It was not
because Shelley was a genius that he married
Harriet Westbrook, then ran away with Mary
Godwin, then tried to get the two to become
friends and neighbors until his own wife committed
suicide; it was not his genius that made
him yield to the influence of Emilia Viviani
and write her the poem "Epipsychidion," telling
her and the world that he "was never attached
to that great sect who believed that each
one should select out of the crowd a mistress or
a friend" and let the rest go. That was not
genius, that was just common passion; and our
divorce courts are full of Shelleys of that type.
So Byron's personal immorality is not to be
explained nor excused on the ground of his
genius. It was not genius that led him so
astray in England that his wife had to divorce
him, and that public opinion drove him out of
the land. It was not his genius that sent him
to visit Shelley and his mistress at Lake Geneva
and seduce their guest, so that she bore him a
daughter, though she was never his wife. It was
not genius that made him pick up still another
companion out of several in Italy and live with
her in immoral relation. In the name of common
decency let no one stand up for Shelley
and Byron in their personal characters! There
are not two moral laws, one for geniuses and one
for common people. Byron, at any rate, was
never deceived about himself, never blamed his
genius nor his conscience for his wrong. These
are striking lines in "Childe Harold," in which
he disclaims all right to sympathy, because,

 "The thorns which I have reaped are of the tree
 I planted,--they have torn me and I bleed.
 I should have known what fruit would spring from
     such a tree."

Shelley's wife would not say that for him.
"In all Shelley did," she says, "he at the time
of doing it believed himself justified to his own
conscience." Well, so much the worse for
Shelley! Geniuses are not the only men who
can find good reason for doing what they want
to do. One of Shelley's critics suggests that the
trouble was his introduction into personal conduct
of the imagination which he ought to have
saved for his writing. Perhaps we might explain
Byron's misconduct by reminding ourselves of
his club-foot, and applying one code of morals
to men with club-feet and another to men with
normal feet.

If we speak of the influence of the Bible on
these men, it must be on their literary work;
and when we find it there, it becomes peculiar
mark of its power. They had little sense of it
as moral law. Their consciences approved it
and condemned themselves, or else their delicate
literary taste sensed it as a book of power.

This is notably true of Shelley. When he was
still a student in Oxford he committed himself
to the opinion of another writer, that "the mind
cannot believe in the existence of God." He tries
to work that out fully in his notes on "Queen
Mab." When he was hardly yet of age he himself
wrote that "The genius of human happiness
must tear every leaf from the accursed Book of
God, ere man can read the inscription on its
heart." He once said that his highest desire
was that there should be a monument to himself
somewhere in the Alps which should be only a
great stone with its face smoothed and this short
inscription cut in it, "Percy Bysshe Shelley,

It would seem that whatever Shelley drew of
strength or inspiration from the Bible would be
by way of reaction; but it is not so. However
he may have hated the "accursed Book of God,"
his wife tells in her note on "The Revolt of Islam"
that Shelley "debated whether he should devote
himself to poetry or metaphysics," and, resolving
on the former, he "educated himself for it,
engaging himself in the study of the poets of
Greece, England, and Italy. To these, may be
added," she goes on, "a constant perusal of portions
of the Old Testament, the Book of Psalms,
Job, Isaiah, and others, the sublime poetry of
which filled him with delight." Not only did
he catch the spirit of that poetry, but its phrases
haunted his memory. In his best prose work,
which he called A Defense of Poetry, there is an
interesting revelation of the influence of his
Bible reading upon him. Toward the end of
the essay these two sentences occur: "It is
inconsistent with this division of our subject to
cite living poets, but posterity has done ample
justice to the great names now referred to. Their
errors have been weighed and found to have
been dust in the balance; if their sins are as
scarlet, they are now white as snow; they have
been washed in the blood of the mediator and
redeemer, Time." There is no more eloquent
passage in the essay than the one of which this
is part, and yet it is full of allusion to this Book
from which all pages must be torn! Even in
"Queen Mab" he makes Ahasuerus, the wandering
Jew, recount the Bible story in such broad
outlines as could be given only by a man who
was familiar with it. When Shelley was in Italy
and the word came to him of the massacre at
Manchester, he wrote his "Masque of Anarchy."
There are few more melodious lines of his writing
than those which occur in this long poem in
the section regarding freedom. Four of those
lines are often quoted. They are at the very
heart of Shelley's best work. Addressing freedom,
he says:

 "Thou art love: the rich have kissed
 Thy feet, and, like him following Christ,
 Gave their substance to the free,
 And through the rough world follow thee."

Page after page of Shelley reveals these half-
conscious references to the Bible. There were
two sources from which he received his passionate
democracy. One was the treatment he
received at Eton, and later at Oxford; the other
is his frequent reading of the English Bible, even
though he was in the spirit of rebellion against
much of its teaching. In Browning's essay on
Shelley, he reaches the amazing conclusion that
"had Shelley lived, he would finally have ranged
himself with the Christians," and seeks to justify
it by showing that he was moving straight toward
the positions of Paul and of David. Some
of us may not see such rapid approach, but that
Shelley felt the drawing of God in the universe
is plain enough.

The influence of the Bible is still more
marked on Byron. He spent his childhood years
at Aberdeen. There his nurse trained him in
the Bible; and, though he did not live by it, he
never lost his love for it, nor his knowledge of
it. He tells of his own experience in this way:
"I am a great reader of those books [the Bible],
and had read them through and through before
I was eight years old; that is to say, the Old
Testament, for the New struck me as a task,
but the other as a pleasure."[1] One of the earliest
bits of his work is a paraphrase of one of the
Psalms. His physical infirmity put him at odds
with the world, while his striking beauty drew
to him a crowd of admirers who helped to poison
every spring of his genius. Even so, he held
his love for the Bible. While Shelley often spoke
of it in contempt, while he prided himself on his
divergence from the path of its teaching, Byron
never did. He wandered far, but he always
knew it; and, though he could hardly find terms
to express his contempt for the Church, there
is no line of Byron's writing which is a slur
at the Bible. On the other hand, much of his
work reveals a passion for the beauty of it as
well as its truth. His most melodious writing
is in that group of Hebrew melodies which were
written to be sung. They demand far more
than a passing knowledge of the Bible both
for their writing and their understanding. There
is a long list of them, but no one without a
knowledge of the Bible would have known what he
meant by his poem, "The Harp the Monarch
Minstrel Swept." "Jephtha's Daughter" presumes
upon a knowledge of the Old Testament
story which would not come to one in a passing
study of the Bible. "The Song of Saul Before
his Last Battle" and the poem headed "Saul"
could not have been written, nor can they be read
intelligently by any one who does not know his
Bible. Among Byron's dramas, two of which
he thought most, were, "Heaven and Earth"
and "Cain." When he was accused of perverting
the Scripture in "Cain," he replied that he
had only taken the Scripture at its face value.
Both of the dramas are not only built directly out
of Scriptural events, but imply a far wider knowledge
of Scripture than their mere titles suggest.

[1] Taine, English Literature, II., 279.

There are striking references in many other
poems, even in his almost vile poem, "Don
Juan." The most notable instance is in the
fifteenth canto, where he is speaking of persecuted
sages and these lines occur:

 "Was it not so, great Locke? and greater Bacon?
 Great Socrates? And Thou Diviner still,
 Whose lot it is by men to be mistaken,
 And Thy pure creed made sanction of all ill?
 Redeeming worlds to be by bigots shaken,
 How was Thy toil rewarded?"

In a note on this passage Byron says: "As it
is necessary in these times to avoid ambiguity,
I say that I mean by 'Diviner still' Christ. If
ever God was man--or man God--He was both.
I never arraigned His creed, but the use or abuse
of it. Mr. Canning one day quoted Christianity
to sanction slavery, and Mr. Wilberforce had
little to say in reply. And was Christ crucified
that black men might be scourged? If so, He
had better been born a mulatto, to give both
colors an equal chance of freedom, or at least
salvation." Byron could live far from the influence
of the Bible in his personal life; but he
never escaped its influence in his literary work.

Of Coleridge less needs to be said, because we
think of him so much in terms of his more
meditative musings, which are often religious.
He himself tells of long and careful rereadings
of the English Bible until he could say: In the
Bible "there is more that finds me than I have
experienced in all other books together; the
words of the Bible find me at greater depths of
my being." Of course, that would influence his
writing, and it did. Even in the "Rime of the
Ancient Mariner" much of the phraseology is
Scriptural. When the albatross drew near,

 "As if it had been a Christian soul,
 We hailed it in God's name."

When the mariner slept he gave praise to Mary,
Queen of Heaven. He sought the shriving of
the hermit-priest. He ends the story because
he hears "the little vesper bell" which bids him
to prayer. When you read his "Hymn Before
Sunrise in the Vale of Chamounix" you find
yourself reading the Nineteenth Psalm. He calls
on the motionless torrents and the silent cataracts
and the great Mont Blanc itself to praise
God. Coleridge never had seen Chamounix,
nor Mont Blanc, nor a glacier, but he knew his
Bible. So he has his Christmas Carol along with
all the rest. His poem of the Moors after the
Civil War under Philip II. is Scriptural in its
phraseology, and so is much else that he wrote.
Frankly and willingly he yielded to its influence.
In his "Table Talk" he often refers to the value of
the Bible in the forming of literary style. Once
he said: "Intense study of the Bible will keep
any writer from being vulgar in point of style."[1]

[1] June 14, 1830.

The very mention of Coleridge makes one
think of Wordsworth. They had a Damon and
Pythias friendship. The Wordsworths were
poor; they had only seventy pounds a year, and
they were not ashamed. Coleridge called them
the happiest family he ever saw. Wordsworth
was not narrowly a Christian poet, he was not
always seeking to put Christian dogma into
poetry, but throughout he was expressing the
Christian spirit which he had learned from the
Bible. His poetry was one long protest against
banishing God from the universe. It was literally
true of him that "the meanest flower that
grows can give thoughts that too often lie too deep
for tears." If this were the time to be critical,
one would think that too much was sometimes
made of very minute occurrences; but this
tendency to get back of the event and see how
God is moving is learned best from Scripture,
where Wordsworth himself learned it. If you
read his "Intimations of Immortality," or the
"Ode to Duty," or "Tintern Abbay," or even
the rather labored "Excursion," you find yourself
under the Scriptural influence.

There remains in this Georgian group the
great prose master, Walter Scott. Mr. Gladstone
said he thought Scott the greatest of his
countrymen. John Morley suggested John Knox
instead. Mr. Gladstone replied: "No, the line
must be drawn firmly between the writer and
the man of action--no comparison there."[1] He
went on to say that Burns is very fine and true,
no doubt, "but to imagine a whole group of
characters, to marshal them, to set them to
work, and to sustain the action, I must count
that the test of highest and most diversified
quality." All who are fond of Scott will realize
how constantly the scenes which he is describing
group themselves around religious observances,
how often men are held in check from deeds of
violence by religious conception. Many of these
scenes crystallize around a Scriptural event.
Scott's boyhood was spent in scenes that
reminded him of the power the Scripture had.
He was drilled from his childhood in the knowledge
of its words and phrases, and while his
writing as a whole shows more of the Old Testament
influence than of the New, even in his style
he is strongly under Bible influence.

[1] Morley, Life of Gladstone, vol. iii, p. 424.

The preface to Guy Mannering tells us it is
built around an old story of a father putting a
lad to test under guidance of an ancient astrologer,
shutting him up in a barren room to be
tempted by the Evil One, leaving him only one
safeguard, a Bible, lying on the table in the
middle of the room. In his introduction to
The Heart of Midlothian, Scott makes one of the
two men thrown into the water by the overturned
coach remind the other that they "cannot
complain, like Cowley, that Gideon's fleece
remains dry while all around is moist; this is
the reverse of the miracle." A little later a
speaker describes novels as the Delilahs that
seduce wise and good men from more serious
reading. In the dramatic scene when Jeanie
Deans faces the wretched George Staunton, who
has so shamed the household, she exclaims:
"O sir, did the Scripture never come into your
mind, 'Vengeance is mine, and I will repay
it?' " "Scripture!" he sneers, "why I had not
opened a Bible for five years." "Wae's me,
sir," said Jeanie--"and a minister's son, too!"
Anthony Foster, in Kenilworth, looks down on
poor Amy's body in the vault into which she
has fallen, in response to what she thought was
Leicester's whistle, and exclaims to Varney:
"Oh, if there be judgment in heaven, thou hast
deserved it, and will meet it! Thou hast destroyed
her by means of her best affections--it
is the seething of the kid in the mother's milk!"
And when, next morning, Varney was found
dead of the secret poison and with a sneering
sarcasm on his ghastly face, Scott dismisses him
with the phrase: "The wicked man, saith the
Scripture, hath no bonds in his death."

His characters use freely the familiar Bible
events and phrases. In the Fortunes of Nigel, a
story of the very period when our King James
version was produced, Hildebrod declares that
if he had his way Captain Peppercull should
hang as high as Haman ever did. In Kenilworth,
when Leicester gives Varney his signet-
ring, he says, significantly: "What thou dost,
do quickly." Of course, Isaac, the Jew in Ivanhoe,
exclaims frequently in Old Testament terms.
He wishes the wheels of the chariots of his
enemies may be taken off, like those of the host
of Pharoah, that they may drive heavily. He
expects the Palmer's lance to be as powerful as
the rod of Moses, and so on.

Scott was writing of the period when men
stayed themselves with Scripture, and his men
are all sure of God and Satan and angels and
judgment and all eternal things. His son-in-
law vouches for the old story that when Sir
Walter was on his death-bed he asked Lockhart
to read him something from the Book, and
when Lockhart asked, "What book?" Scott replied:
"Why do you ask? There is but one
book, the Bible."

All this is scant justice to the Georgian group;
but it may give a hint of what the Bible meant
even at that period, the period when its grip
on men was most lax in all the later English

It is in the Victorian age (1840-1900) that the
field is most bewildering. It is true, as Frederick
Harrison says, that "this Victorian age has no
Shakespeare or Milton, no Bacon or Hume, no
Fielding or Scott--no supreme master in poetry,
philosophy, or romance whose work is incorporated
with the thought of the world, who is
destined to form an epoch, to endure for
centuries."[1] The genius of the period is more
scientific than literary, yet we would be helpless
if we had not already eliminated from our discussion
everything but the works and writers
of pure literature. The output of books has been
so tremendous that it would be impossible to
analyze the influences which have made them.
There are in this Victorian period at least twelve
great English writers who must be known, whose
work affects the current of English literature.
Many other names would need mention in any
full history or any minute study; but it is not
harsh judgment to say that the main current
of literature would be the same without them.
A few of these lesser names will come to mind,
and in the calling of them one realizes the
influence, even on them, of the English Bible.
Anthony Trollope wrote sixty volumes, the titles
of most of which are now popularly unknown.
He told George Eliot that it was not brains that
explained his writing so much, but rather wax
which he put in the seat of his chair, which held
him down to his daily stint of work. He could
boast, and it was worth the boasting, that he
had never written a line which a pure woman
could not read without a blush. His whole
Framley Parsonage series abounds in Bible
references and allusions. So Charlotte Bronte is
in English literature, and Jane Eyre does prove
what she was meant to prove, that a commonplace
person can be made the heroine of a novel;
but on all Charlotte Bronte's work is the mark
of the rectory in which she grew up. So Thomas
Grey has left his "Elegy" and his "Hymn to
Adversity," and some other writing which most of
us have forgotten or never knew. Then there
are Maria Edgeworth and Jane Austen. We
may even remember that Macaulay thought
Jane Austen could be compared with Shakespeare,
as, of course, she can be, since any one
can be; but neither of these good women has
strongly affected the literary current. Many
others could be named, but English literature
would be substantially the same without them;
and, though all might show Biblical influence,
they would not illustrate what we are trying to
discover. So we come, without apology to the
unnamed, to the twelve, without whom English
literature would be different. This is the list
in the order of the alphabet: Matthew Arnold,
Robert Browning (Mrs. Browning being grouped
as one with him), Carlyle, Dickens, George Eliot,
Charles Kingsley, Macaulay, Ruskin, Robert
Louis Stevenson, Swinburne, Tennyson, and

[1] Early Victorian Literature, p. 9

It is dangerous to make such a list; but it
can be defended. Literary history would not
be the same without any one of them, unless
possibly Swinburne, whose claim to place is
rather by his work as critic than as creator.
Nor is any name omitted whose introduction
would change literary history.

Benjamin Jowett thought Arnold too flippant
on religious things to be a real prophet. At any
rate, this much is true, that the books in which
Arnold dealt with the fundamentals of religion
are his profoundest work. In his poetry the
best piece of the whole is his "Rugby Chapel."
His Religion and Dogma he himself calls an "essay
toward a better apprehension of the Bible."
All through he urges it as the one Book which
needs recovery. "All that the churches can
say about the importance of the Bible and its
religion we concur in." The book throughout
is an effort to justify his own faith in terms of
the Bible. The effort is sometimes amusing,
because it takes such a logical and verbal agility
to go from one to the other; but he is always
at it. He is afraid in his soul that England will
swing away from the Bible. He fears it may
come about through neglect of the Bible on one
hand, or through wrong teaching about it on the
other. Not in his ideas alone, but markedly in
his style, Arnold has felt the Biblical influence.
He came at a time when there was strong temptation
to fall into cumbrous German ways of
speech. Against that Arnold set a simple
phraseology, and he held out the English Bible
constantly as a model by which the men of
England ought to learn to write. He never
gained the simplicity of the old Hebrew sentence,
and sometimes his secondary clauses follow one
another so rapidly that a reader is confused;
but his words as a whole are simple and direct.

There is no need of much word on the spell
of the Bible over Robert Browning and Mrs.
Browning. It is not often that two singing-
birds mate; but these two sang in a key pitched
for them by the Scripture as much as by any one
influence. Many of their greatest poems have
definite Biblical themes. In them and in others
Biblical allusions are utterly bewildering to men
who do not know the Bible well. For five years
(1841-1846) Browning's poems appeared under
the title Bells and Pomegranates. Scores of
people wondered then, and wonder still, what
"Pippa Passes" and "A Blot in the Scutcheon "
and the others have to do with such a title.
They have never thought, as Browning did, of
the border of the beautiful robe of the high priest
described in the Book of Exodus. The finest
poem of its length in the English language is
Browning's "Saul"; but it is only the story of
David driving the evil spirit from Saul, sweeping
on to the very coming of Christ. "The Death
in the Desert" is the death of John, the beloved
disciple. "Karshish, the Arab Physician" tells
in his own way of the raising of Lazarus. The text
of "Caliban upon Setebos" is, "Thou thoughtest
that I was altogether such an one as thyself."
The text of "Cleon" is, "As certain of your own
poets have said." In "Fifine at the Fair" the
Cure expounds the experience of Jacob and his
stone-pillow with better insight than some better-
known expositors show. In "Pippa Passes,"
when Bluphocks, the English vagabond, is 
introduced, Browning seems to justify his appearance
by the single foot-note: "He maketh His sun to
rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth
rain on the just and on the unjust"; and Mr.
Bluphocks shows himself amusingly familiar
with Bible facts and phrases. Mr. Sludge, "the
Medium," thinks the Bible says the stars are
"set for signs when we should shear sheep, sow
corn, prune trees," and describes the skeptic in
the magic circle of spiritual "investigators" as
the "guest without the wedding-garb, the doubting
Thomas." Some one has taken the trouble
to count five hundred Biblical phrases or allusions
in "The Ring and the Book." Mrs. Browning's
"'Drama of Exile" is the woman's side of the
fall of Adam and Eve. Ruskin thought her
"Aurora Leigh" the greatest poem the century
had produced at that time. It abounds in
Scriptural allusions. Browning came by all this
naturally. Raised in the Church by a father
who "delighted to surround him with books,
notably old and rare Bibles," and a mother
Carlyle called "a true type of a Scottish gentlewoman,"
with all the skill in the Bible that that
implies, he never lost his sense of the majesty
of the movement of Scripture ideas and phrases.

We need spend little time in discussing the
influence of the English Bible on Thomas Carlyle.
He does not often use the Scripture for
his main theme; but he is constantly making
Biblical allusions. On a railway journey when
I was rereading Carlyle's Historical Sketches, I
found a direct Biblical reference for every five
pages, and almost numberless allusions beside.

The "Everlasting Yea," of which he says
much, he gets, as you at once recognize, from
the Scripture. His "Heroes and Hero Worship"
is based on an idea of heroism which he learned
from the Bible. He is an Old Testament prophet
of present times; and, while he degenerated
into a scold before he was through with it, he
yet spoke with the thunderous voice of a true
prophet, and much of the time in the language
of the prophets. Some one said once that the
only real reverence Carlyle ever had was for
the person of Christ. Certainly there is no note
of sneer, but of the profoundest regard for the
teaching, the ideas and the history of the Scripture.

The name of Charles Dickens suggests a
different atmosphere. He is a New Testament
prophet. Where Carlyle has caught the spirit
of rugged power in the Old Testament, Dickens
has caught the sense of kindly love in the New
Testament. Dickens's love for the child, the
fact that he could draw children as he could draw
no one else and make them lovable, suggests the
value to him of those frequent references which
he makes to Christ setting a child in the midst
of the disciples. It is notable, too, how often
Dickens uses the great Scripture phrases for his
most dramatic climaxes. There are not in literature
many finer uses of Scripture than the scene
in Bleak House, where the poor waif Joe is dying,
and while his friend teaches him the Lord's
Prayer he sees the light coming. A Christmas
season without Dickens's Christmas Carol would
be incomplete; but there again is the Scripture
idea pressed forward.

George Eliot surely, if any writer, was under
the spell of the Scripture. One of her critics
calls her the historian of conscience. All of her
heroes and heroines know the lash of the law.
She knows very little about the New Testament,
one would judge; but the one thing about which
she has no doubt is certainly the reign of moral
law. If a man will not yield to its power, it will
break him. There is no such thing as breaking
the moral law; there is nothing but being broken
by it. Her characters are always quoting the
Bible. They preach a great deal. She tells
that she herself wrote Dinah Morris's sermon on
the green with tears in her eyes. She meant it
all. While her own religious faith was clouded,
her finest characters are never clouded in their
religious faith, and she grounds their faith quite
invariably on their early training in the Scripture.
It is an interesting fact that George Eliot
has no principal story which has not in it a
church, and a priest or a preacher, with all that
they involve.

Charles Kingsley is grouped hardly fairly in
this list, because he was himself a preacher, and
naturally all his work would feel the power of
the Book, which he chiefly studied. Professor
Masson says that "there is not one of his novels
which has not the power of Christianity for its
theme." No voice was raised more effectively
for the beginning of the new social era in England
than his. Alton Locke and Yeast are epoch-
making books in the life of the common people
of England. Even Hypatia, which is supposed
to have been written to represent entirely pagan
surroundings, is full of Bible phrases and

Lord Macaulay had been held up for many a
day as one of the masters of style. Such great
writing is not to be traced to any one influence.
It could not have been easy to write as Macaulay
wrote. Thackeray may have exaggerated
in saying that Macaulay read twenty books to
write a sentence, and traveled a hundred miles
to make a description; but all his writing shows
the power of taking infinite pains. It becomes
the more important, therefore, that Macaulay
held the Bible in such estimate as he did. "In
calling upon Lady Holland one day, Lord
Macaulay was led to bring the attention of his
fair hostess to the fact that the use of the word
'talent' to mean gifts or powers of the mind,
as when we speak of men of talent, came from
the use of the word in Christ's parable of the
talents. In a letter to his sister Hannah he describes
the incident, and says that Lady Holland
was evidently ignorant of the parable. 'I
did not tell her,' he adds, 'though I might have
done so, that a person who professes to be a
critic in the delicacies of the English language
ought to have the Bible at his fingers' ends.' "
That Macaulay practised his own preaching you
would quickly find by referring to his essays.
Take three sentences from the Essay on Milton:
"The principles of liberty were the scoff of every
growing courtier, and the Anathema Maranatha
of every fawning dean. In every high place
worship was paid to Charles and James, Belial
and Moloch, and England propitiated these obscene
and cruel idols with the blood of her best
and brightest children. Crime succeeded to
crime, and disgrace to disgrace, until the race,
accursed of God and man, was a second time
driven forth to wander on the face of the earth
and to be a by-word and a shaking of the head
to the nations." In three sentences here are
six allusions to Scripture. In that same essay,
in the paragraphs on the Puritans, the allusions
are a multitude. They are not even quoted.
They are taken for granted. In his Essay on
Machiavelli, though the subject does not suggest
it, he falls into Scriptural phrases over and
over. Listen to this, "A time was at hand when
all the seven vials of the Apocalypse were to be
poured forth and shaken out over those pleasant
countries"; or this, "All the curses pronounced
of old against Tyre seemed to have
fallen on Venice. Her merchants already stood
afar off lamenting for their great city"; or this,
"In the energetic language of the prophet,
Machiavelli was mad for the sight of his eyes
which he saw."

And if Macaulay is baffling in the abundance
of material, surely John Ruskin is worse. Carlyle's
English style ran into excess of roughness;
Macaulay's ran into excess of balance and delicacy.
John Ruskin's continued to be the smoothest,
easiest style in our English literature. He
also was a Hebraic spirit, but of the gentler type.
Mr. Chapman calls him the Elisha to Carlyle's,
Elijah, a capital comparison.[1] Ruskin is one of
the few writers who have told us what formed
their style. In the first chapter of Praeterita he
pays tribute to his mother. He himself chose
to read Walter Scott and Pope's Homer; but he
says: "My mother forced me by steady daily
toil to learn long chapters of the Bible by heart,
as well as to read it, every syllable aloud, hard
names and all, from Genesis to the Apocalypse
about once a year; and to that discipline--
patient, accurate, and resolute--I owe not only
a knowledge of the Book which I find occasionally
serviceable, but much of my general power
of taking pains and the best part of my taste
in literature." He thinks reading Scott might
have led to other novels of a poorer sort.
Reading Pope might have led to Johnson's
or Gibbon's English; but "it was impossible
to write entirely superficial and formal English"
while he knew "by heart the thirty-
second of Deuteronomy, the fifteenth of I
Corinthians, the One hundred and nineteenth
Psalm, or the Sermon on the Mount." In the
second chapter of Praeterita he is even more
explicit. "I have next with deeper gratitude to
chronicle what I owed to my mother for the resolute
persistent lessons which so exercised me in
the Scripture, as to make every word of them
familiar in my ear as habitual music, yet in that
familiarity reverenced as transcending all thought
and ordering all conduct." He tells how his
mother drilled him. As soon as he could read
she began a course of Bible work with him.
They read alternate verses from the Genesis to
the Revelation, names and all. Daily he had to
commit verses of the Scripture. He hated the
One hundred and nineteenth Psalm most; but
he lived to cherish it most. In his old Bible he
found the list of twenty-six chapters taught by
his mother.

[1] English Literature in Account with Religion.

Not only was Ruskin well trained in the Bible,
but he was a great teacher of it. In his preface
to the Crown of Wild Olives he answers his critics
by saying he has used the Book for some forty
years. "My endeavor has been uniformly to
make men read it more deeply than they do;
trust it, not in their own favorite verses only,
but in the sum of it all; treat it not as a fetish
or a talisman which they are to be saved by daily
repetition of, but as a Captain's order, to be held
and obeyed at their peril." In the introduction
to the Seven Lamps of Architecture he urges that
we are in no danger of too much use of the Bible.
"We use it most reverently when most habitually."
Many of Ruskin's most striking titles
come straight out of the Scripture. Crown of
Wild Olives, Seven Lamps, Unto this Last--all
these are suggested by the Bible.

It is almost superfluous to speak of Robert
Louis Stevenson. John Kelman has written a
whole book on the religion of Stevenson, and it
is available for all readers. He was raised by
Cummy, his nurse, whose library was chiefly the
Bible, the shorter catechism, and the Life of
Robert Murray McCheyne. He said that the
fifty-eighth chapter of Isaiah was his special
chapter, because it so repudiated cant and demanded
a self-denying beneficence. He loved
Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress; but "the Bible
most stood him in hand." Every great story
or essay shows its influence. He was not critical
with it; he did not understand it; he did not
interpret it fairly; but he felt it. His Dr. Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde is only his way of putting into
modern speech Paul's old distinction between
the two men who abide in each of us. They
told him he ought not to work in Samoa, and he
replied that he could not otherwise be true to
the great Book by which he and all men who
meant to do great work must live. Over the
shoulder of our beloved Robert Louis Stevenson
you can see the great characters of Scripture
pressing him forward to his best work.

Not so much can be said of Swinburne. There
was a strong infusion of acid in his nature, which
no influence entirely destroyed. He is apt to
live as a literary critic and essayist, though he
supposed himself chiefly a poet. His own
thought of poetry can be seen in his protest
in behalf of Meredith. When he had been accused
of writing on a subject on which he had
no conviction to express ("Modern Love"), Swinburne
denied that poets ought to preach anyway.
"There are pulpits enough for all preachers
of prose, and the business of verse writing
is hardly to express convictions." Yet it is
impossible to forget Milton and his purpose to
"assert Eternal Providence, and justify the ways
of God to men." Naturally, most poets do
preach and preach well. Wordsworth declared
be wanted to be considered a teacher or nothing.
Mrs. Browning thought that poets were the only
truth-tellers left to God. But Swinburne could
not help a little preaching at any rate. His
"Masque on Queen Bersaba" is an old miracle
play of David and Nathan. His "Christmas
Antiphones" are hardly Christian, though they
are abundant in their allusions to Scripture.
The first is a prayer for peace and rest in the
coming of the new day of the birth of Christ.
The second is a protest that neither God nor
man has befriended man as he should, and the
third is an assurance that men will do for man
even if God will not. Now, that is not Christian,
but the Bible phrases are all through it.
So when he writes his poem bemoaning Poland,
he needs must head it "Rizpah." At the same
time it must be said that Swinburne shows less
of the influence of the Bible in his style and
in his spirit than any other of our great English

We come back again into the atmosphere of
strong Bible influence when we name Alfred
Tennyson. When Byron died, and the word
came to his father's rectory at Somersby, young
Alfred Tennyson felt that the sun had fallen
from the heavens. He went out alone in the
fields and carved in the sandstone, as though it
were a monument: "Byron is dead." That was
in the early stage of his poetical life. At first
Carlyle could not abide Tennyson. He counted
him only an echo of the past, with no sense for
the future; but when he read Tennyson's "The
Revenge," he exclaimed, "Eh, he's got the
grip o' it"; and when Richard Monckton Milnes
excused himself for not getting Tennyson a
pension by saying his constituents had no use
for poetry anyway, Carlyle said, "Richard
Milnes, in the day of judgment when you are
asked why you did not get that pension, you
may lay the blame on your constituents, but it
will be you who will be damned!" Dr. Henry van
Dyke studied Tennyson to best effect at just
this point. In his chapter on "The Bible in
Tennyson" are many such sayings as these: "It
is safe to say that there is no other book which
has had so great an influence upon the literature
of the world as the Bible. We hear the echoes
of its speech everywhere, and the music of its
familiar phrases haunts all the field and grove
of our fine literature. At least one cause of his
popularity is that there is so much Bible in
Tennyson. We cannot help seeing that the poet
owes a large debt to the Christian Scriptures, not
only for their formative influence on his mind
and for the purely literary material in the way
of illustrations and allusions which they have
given him, but also for the creation of a moral
atmosphere, a medium of thought and feeling
in which he can speak freely and with an assurance
of sympathy to a very wide circle of

I need not stop to indicate the great poems
in which Tennyson has so often used Scripture.
The mind runs quickly to the little maid in
"Guinevere," whose song, "Late, Late, so Late,"
is only a paraphrase of the parable of the
foolish virgins. "In Memoriam" came into the
skeptical era of England, with its new challenge
to faith, and stopped the drift of young men
toward materialism. Recall the fine use he
makes, in the heart of it, of the resurrection of
Lazarus, and other Biblical scenes. Dr. van
Dyke's "four hundred direct references to the
Bible" do not exhaust the poems. No one can
get Tennyson's style without the English Bible,
and no one can read Tennyson intelligently
without a fairly accurate knowledge of the Bible.

In this Victorian group the last name is
Thackeray's. He is another whose mother
trained him in the English Bible. The title of
Vanity Fair is from Pilgrim's Progress, but the
motto is from the Scripture; and he wrote his
mother regarding the book: "What I want is
to make a set of people living without God in
the world (only that is a cant phrase.)" It is
certain his mother did not count it a cant phrase,
for he learned it from the Scripture. The subtitle
of his Adventures of Philip says he is to show
who robbed him, who helped him, and who
passed him by. Thackeray got those expressions
from the Bible. Somewhere very early in any
of his works he reveals the influence of his
childhood and manhood knowledge of the English

All this about the Victorian group is meant
to be very familiar to any who are fresh from
the reading of literature. They are great
names, and they have differences as wide as the
poles; but they have this in common, that they
have drunk lightly or deeply from the same
fountain; they have drawn from it ideas, allusions,
literary style. Each of them has weakened
as he has gotten farther from it, and
loyalty to it has strengthened any one of them.

Turn now to the American group of writers.
If we except theological writers with Jonathan
Edwards, Horace Bushnell, Henry Ward Beecher,
and their like, and political writers with Jefferson,
Webster, and their like, the list need not
be a long one. Only one writer in our narrower
sense of literature must be named in the earlier
day--Benjamin Franklin. In the period before
the Civil War must be named Edgar Allan Poe
(died 1849) and Washington Irving (died 1859).
The Civil War group is the large one, and its
names are those of the later group as well. Let
them be alphabetical, for convenience: William
Cullen Bryant, poet and critic; George William
Curtis, essayist and editor; Emerson, our
noblest name in the sphere of pure essay literature;
Hawthorne, the novelist of conscience, as
Socrates was its philosopher; Oliver Wendell
Holmes, whose "two chief hatreds were orthodoxy
in religion and heterodoxy in medicine";
James Russell Lowell, essayist and poet, apt to
live by his essays rather than by his poetry;
Longfellow, whose "Psalm of Life" and "Hiawatha"
have lived through as much parody and
ridicule as any two bits of literature extant,
and have lived because they are predestined
to live; Thoreau, whose Walden may show, as
Lowell said, how much can be done on little
capital, but which has the real literary tang to it;
and Whittier, whose poetry is sung the world

That makes only twelve names from Franklin
to Whittier. Others could be included; but
they are not so great as these. No one of these
could be taken out of our literature without
affecting it and, in some degree at least, changing
the current of it. This is not to forget
Bret Harte nor Samuel L. Clemens. But each
is dependent for his survival on a taste for a
certain kind of humor, not delicate like Irving's
and Holmes's, but strong and sudden and a bit
sharp. If we should forget the "Luck of Roaring
Camp," "Truthful James," and the "Heathen
Chinee," we would also forget Bret Harte. We
are not apt to forget Tom Sawyer, nor perhaps
The Innocents Abroad, but we are forgetting much
else of Mark Twain. Whitman is not named.
His claims are familiar, but in spite of his admirers
he seems so charged with a sensuous egotism
that he is not apt to be a formative influence in
literary history. It is still interesting, however,
to remember how frequently he reveals his reading
of Scripture.

Fortunately, all these writers are so near, and
their work is so familiar, that details regarding
them are not needed. Two or three general
words can be said. In the first place, observe
the high moral tone of all these first-grade
writers, and, indeed, of the others who may be
spoken of as in second rank. There is not a
meretricious or humiliating book in the whole
collection. There is not one book which has
lived in American literature which has the tone
of Fielding's Tom Jones. Whether it is that the
Puritan strain continues in us or not, it is true
that the American literary public has not taken
happily to stories that would bring a blush in
public reading. Professor Richardson, of Dartmouth,
gives some clue to the reason of that.
He says that "since 1870 or 1880 in America
there has been a marked increase of strength
of theistic and spiritual belief and argument
among scientific men, students of philosophy,
religious 'radicals,' and others." He adds that
while much contemporary American literature
and thought is outside the accepted orthodox
lines, yet "it is not hostile to Christianity; to
the principles of its Founder it is for the most
part sincerely attached. On the other hand,
materialism has scarcely any hold upon it."
Then follows a very notable sentence which is
sustained by the facts: "Not an American book
of the first class has ever been written by an
atheist or denier of immortality." That sentence
need not offend an admirer of Walt Whitman,
for he "accepts both theism and the doctrine
of the future life." American thought has
remained loyal to the great Trinity, God, Freedom,
and Immortality. So it comes about that
while there are a number of these writers who
could be put under the ban of the strongly
orthodox in religion, every one of them shows
the effect of early training in religion and in
the Scripture.[1]

[1] This is fully worked out in Professor Richardson's American
Literature, with ample illustration and argument.

Another thing to be said is that America has a
unique history among great nations in that it
has never been affected by any great religious
influence except that which has issued from the
Scriptures. No religion has ever been influential
in America except Christianity. For many
years there have been sporadic and spasmodic
efforts to extend the influence of Buddhism or
other Indian cults. They have never been successful,
because the American spirit is practical,
and not meditative. We are not an introspective
people. We do not look within ourselves
for our religion. Whatever moral and religious
influence our literature shows gets back first or
last to our Scriptures. The point of view of
nature that is taken by our writers like Bryant
and Thoreau is that of the Nineteenth Psalm.
Moreover, we have been strongly under the
English influence. Irving insisted that we ought
to be, that we were a young nation, that we
ought frankly to follow the leadership of more
experienced writers. Longfellow thought we
had gone too far that way, and that our poets, at
least, ought to be more independent, ought to
write in the spirit of America and not of traditional
poetry. Whether we ought to have yielded
to it or not, it is true that English influence
has told very strongly upon us, and the writers
who have influenced our writers most have been
those whom we have named as being themselves
under the Bible influence.

We need not go into detail about these writers,
though they are most attractive. Bryant did
for us what Wordsworth did for England. He
made nature seem vocal. "Thanatopsis" is not
a Christian poem in the narrow sense of the
word, and yet it could hardly have been written
except under Christian influence. His own genial,
beautiful character was itself a tribute to
Christian civilization, and his life, as critic and
essayist, has left an impression which we shall
not soon lose. Professor Richardson thinks
that the three problematical characters in American
literature are Emerson, Hawthorne, and
Poe. The shrewdest estimate of Poe that has
ever been given us is in Lowell's Fable for Critics:

 "There comes Poe with his raven like Barnaby
 Three-fifths of him genius, and two-fifths sheer
 Who has written some things quite the best of
     their kind,
 But the heart somehow seems all squeezed out by
     the mind."

That says it exactly. Poe knew many horrible
situations, but he did not know the way out;
and of all our American writers laying claim to
place in the first class Poe shows least influence
of the Bible, and apparently needs it most.

Irving was the first American writer who
stood high enough to be seen across the water.
Thackeray's most beautiful essay is on Irving and
Macaulay, who died just one month apart. In
it he describes Irving as the best intermediary
between the nations, telling us Americans that
the English are still human, and assuring the
English that Americans are already human.
Irving was trained early and thoroughly in the
Bible. All his life he was an old-fashioned
Episcopalian with no concern for new religious
ideas and with no rough edges anywhere.
Charles Dudley Warner, speaking of Irving's
moral quality, says: "I cannot bring myself to
exclude it from a literary estimate, even in the
face of the current gospel of art for art's sake."[1]
Like Scott, he "recognized the abiding value
in literature of integrity, sincerity, purity, charity,
faith. These are beneficences, and Irving's
literature, walk around it and measure it by
whatever critical instruments you will, is a
beneficent literature."

[1] American Men of Letters Series, Washington Irving, p. 302.

Then there is Emerson, a son of the manse
and once a minister himself. He was, therefore,
perfectly familiar with the English Bible. He
did not accept it in all its religious teaching.
Indeed, we have never had a more marked
individualist in our American public life than
Emerson. At every point he was simply himself.
There is very little quotation in his writing,
very little visible influence of any one else.
He was not a follower of Carlyle, though he was
his friend. If there is any precedent for the
construction of his sentences, and even of his
essays, it is to be found in the Hebrew prophets.
As some one puts it, "he uttered sayings." In
many of his essays there is no particular reason
why the paragraphs should run one, two, three,
and not three, two, one, or two, one, three, or
in any other order. But Mr. Emerson was just
himself. It is yet true that "his value for the
world at large lies in the fact that after all he
is incurably religious." It is true that he could
not see any importance in forms, or in ordinary
declarations of faith. "He would fight no battle
for prelacy, nor for the Westminster confession,
nor for the Trinity, but as against atheism,
pessimism, and materialism, he was an ally of
Christianity." The influence of the Bible on
Emerson is more marked in his spirit than in
anything else. Once in a while, as in that familiar
address at Concord (1873), you run across
Scripture phrases: "Shall not they who receive
the largest streams spread abroad the healing
waters?" That figure appears in literature only
in the Bible, and there are others like it in his

As for Longfellow, he is shot through with
Scripture. No man who did not know Scripture
in more than a passing way could have written
such a sentence as this: "There are times when
the grasshopper is a burden, and thirsty with the
heat of labor the spirit longs for the waters of
Shiloah, that go softly." There are two strikingly
beautiful expressions from Scripture. Take
another familiar saying in the same essay when
he says the prospect for poetry is brightening,
since but a short time ago not a poet "moved
the wing or opened the mouth or peeped." He
did not run across that in general current writing.
He got that directly from the Bible. In
his poems is an amazing amount of reference
to the Bible. One would expect much in the
"Courtship of Miles Standish," for that is a
story of the Puritans, and they spoke, naturally,
in terms of the Bible; yet, of course, they could
not do it in Longfellow's poem, if Longfellow
did not know the language of the Bible very well.
One might not expect to find it so much in
"Evangeline," but it is there from beginning to
end. In "Acadia," the cock crowed

               "With the self-same
 Voice that in ages of old had startled the penitent

               "Wild with the winds of September,
 Wrestled the trees of the forest, as Jacob of old
     with the angel."

Evangeline saw the moon pass

 Forth from the folds of the cloud, and one star
     followed her footsteps,
 As out of Abraham's tent young Ishmael
 Wandered with Hagar."

There is a great deal of that sort of thing in his
writing. He has done for many what he did
for Lowell one day. Discouraged in settling
the form of a new edition of his own poems,
Lowell took up a volume of Longfellow just to
see the type, and presently found that he had
been reading two hours. He wrote Longfellow
he could understand his popularity, saying:
"You sang me out of all my worries." That is
a great thing to do, and Longfellow learned from
the Scripture how to do that in the "Psalm of
Life" and all his other poems.

We need only a word about Lowell himself.
He was the son of a minister, and so knew the
Bible from his infancy. He belonged to the
Brahman caste himself, but a good deal of the
ruggedness of the Old Testament got into his
writing. It is in "The Vision of Sir Launfal."
It is in his plea for international copyright where
the familiar lines occur:

 "In vain we call old notions fudge,
 And bend our conscience to our dealing,
 The Ten Commandments will not budge,
 And stealing will continue stealing."

There is hint of it in his quizzical lines about
himself in the Fable for Critics. He says that
he is in danger of rattling away

 "Until he is as old as Methusalem,
 At the head of the march to the last New Jerusalem."

Whittier needs no words of ours. His hymns
are part of our religious equipment. "Snowbound"
and all the rest of the beautiful, quiet,
Quaker-like writing of this beloved poet are
among our national assets. We join in his sorrow
as he writes the doom of Webster and his
fame, and we do not wonder that he chose for
it the Scriptural title "Ichabod."

Whatever is to be said about an individual
here or there, it is true that great American
literature shows the influence of the Bible. Like
everything else in America, it has been founded
on a religious purpose. Writers in all lines have
been trained in the Bible. If they feel any
religious influence at all, it is the Bible influence.

This has been a long journey from Shakespeare
to Whittier, and it leaves untouched the
great field of present-day writers. Let the
unstarred names wait their time. Among them
are many who can say in their way what Hall
Caine has said of himself: "I think I know my
Bible as few literary men know it. There is no
book in the world like it, and the finest novels
ever written fall far short in interest of any one
of the stories it tells. Whatever strong situations
I have in my books are not of my creation,
but are taken from the Bible. The Deemster is
a story of the Prodigal Son. The Bondman is
the story of Esau and Jacob. The Scapegoat is
the story of Eli and his sons, but with Samuel
as a little girl; and The Manxman is the story of
David and Uriah." Take up any of the novels
of the day, even the poorer ones, but notably
the better ones, and see how uniformly they show
the Scriptural influence in material, in idea, and
in spirit. What the literature of the future will
be no one can say. This much is as sure as any
fact in literary history, that the English Bible
is part of the very fiber of great literature from
the day it first appeared in our tongue to this



THE King James version of the Bible is
only a book. What can a book do in history?
Well, whatever the reason, books have
played a large part in the movements of men,
specially of modern men.

They have markedly influenced the opinion
of men about the past. It is commonly said that
Hume's History of England, defective as it is,
has yet "by its method revolutionized the writing
of history," and that is true. Nearer our
own time, Carlyle's Life of Cromwell reversed the
judgment of history on Cromwell, gave all
readers of history a new conception of him and
his times and of the movement of which he
was the life. After the Restoration none were
so poor as to do Cromwell reverence until Carlyle's
BOOK gave him anew to the world.

There are instances squarely in our own time
by which their mighty influence may be tested.
They are of books of almost ephemeral value
save for the student of history. As literature
they will be quickly forgotten; but as FORCES
they must be reckoned with. There is Uncle
Tom's Cabin. It would be absurd to say that
it brought the American Civil War, or freed
the negroes, or saved the Union. It did none
of those great things. Yet it is not at all absurd
to name it among the potent powers in all
three. It is not to our purpose whether it is
true or not as a statement of the whole fact.
Doubtless it was not true of the general and
common circumstances of Southern slavery; but
everything in it was possible, and even frequent
enough so that it could not be questioned. It
pretended no more. But its influence was simply
tremendous. In book form it became available
in 1852, and within three years, 1855, it
was common property of English-speaking people.
No other book ever produced so extraordinary
an effect so quickly in the public mind.[1]
It held up slavery to judgment. It crystallized
the thoughts of common people. The work of
those strenuous years in the '60's could not have
been done without the result of that book. It
made history. Come nearer our own day. We
could not be long in London without feeling
the concern of the better people for conditions
in the East End. A new social impulse has
seized them. To be sure, it lacks much yet of
success; but more has been done than most
people realize. The new movement, the awakening
of that social sense, traces back to the book
of Gen. William Booth, In Darkest England
(1890). It has helped to change the life of a
large part of London.

[1] Rhodes, History of the United States, vol. i, pp. 185-303.

On this side, the new concern for city conditions
dates from the book of a newspaper reporter,
Jacob A. Riis, How the Other Half Lives.
It thrust the Other Half into such prominence
that it has never been possible to forget it.
Marked advance in all American cities, in legislation
and life, goes straight back to it. Name
one other book still in the field of social service,
even so unpleasant, so terrible, so obnoxious a
book as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. It started
and sustained movements which have unsettled
business and political life ever since it appeared.
It made some conditions vivid, unescapable.

Do not misunderstand the argument. No
man can tell what will be said in the histories
a century from now about these lesser books.
We can never go beyond guesses as to the whole
cause of any chain of events.[1] As time passes,
incidental elements in the causes gradually sink
out of sight and a few great forces take the
whole horizon. Whatever the histories a century
from now say about the relative place of
such books as we have named, it is certain that
they have influenced the movements mightily.
The literary histories will say nothing at all
about them. They are not great literature, but
they were born of a passion of the times and
voiced and aroused it anew.

[1] MacPhail, Essays on Puritanism, p. 278.

When, therefore, it is urged that the English
Bible has influenced history, it is not making an
undue claim for it. When it is further urged
that of all books in English literature it has been
most influential, it has most made history, it
has most determined great movements, the
argument only claims for it the highest place
among books.

And it would not be surprising if it should
have such influence. It is the one great piece
of English literature which is universal property.
Since the day it was published it has been kept
available for everybody. No other book has
ever had its chance. English-speaking people
have always been essentially religious. They
have always had a profound regard for the terms,
the institutions, the purposes of religion. Partly
that has been maintained by the Bible; but the
Bible in its turn has been maintained by it. So
it has come about that English-speaking people,
though they have many books, are essentially
people of one Book. Wherever they are, the
Bible is. Queen Victoria has it near by when the
messenger from the Orient appears, and lays her
hand upon it to say that this is the foundation
of the prosperity of England. But the poor
housewife in the cottage, with only a crust for
food, stays her soul with it. The Puritan creeps
into hiding with the Book, while his brother sails
away to the new land with the Book. The settler
may have his Shakespeare; he will surely
have his Bible. As the long wagon-train creeps
across the plain to seek the Western shore, there
may be no other book in all the train; but the
Bible will be there. Find any settlement of
men who speak the English tongue, wherever
they make their home, and the Bible is among
them. When did any book have such a chance
to influence men? It is the one undisturbed
heritage of all who speak the English tongue. It
binds the daughter and the mother country together,
and gathers into the same bond the scattered
remnants of the English-speaking race the
world around. Its language is the one speech
they all understand. Strange it would be if it
had not a profound influence upon history!

Another fact that has helped to give the Bible
its great influence is the power of the preaching
it has inspired. The periods of greatest preaching
have always been the periods of freest access
to the Bible. No one can overlook the immense
power of the sermons of history. There have
been poor, inept, banal expositors, doubtless;
but even they turned men's minds to the Bible.
Reading the Bible makes men thinkers, and so
makes preachers inevitably. Witness the Scotch.
James was raised in Scotland and believed in
the power of preaching. At one time he wanted
to settle endowments for the maintenance of
preaching under government control. But Archbishop
Whitgift convinced him that much preaching
was "an innovation and dangerous," since it
is quite impossible to control a man's mouth
once it is given a public chance. Under Charles
I. the sermon was mighty in the service of the
Puritans until it was suppressed or restricted.
Then men became lecturers and expounded the
Bible or taught religious truth in public or private.
Rich men engaged private chaplains since
public meetings could not be held. Somehow
they taught the Bible still. Archbishop Laud
forbade both. Yet the leaven worked the more
for its restriction. At least one good cook I
know says that if you want your dough to rise
and the yeast to work, you must cover it. Laud
did not want it to rise, but he made the mistake
of covering it.

There has never been a book which has provoked
such incessant preaching and discussion
as has the Bible. The believers in the Koran
teach it as it is, word for word. Believers in the
Bible have never stopped with that. They
have always tried to come together and hear it
expounded. Such gatherings and such constant
pressure of the Book on groups of hearers would
inevitably give the Bible great influence. When
it is remembered that in America alone there
are each week approximately four hundred thousand
gatherings of people which have for their
avowed purpose instruction or inspiration in
religion, and that the instruction and inspiration
are professedly and openly drawn from the Bible,
that more than three hundred thousand sermons
are preached every week from it and passages
of it read in all the gatherings, it appears that the
Bible had and still has such a chance to influence
life as no other book has had. President Schurman
traces a large part of our own stronger
American life to the educative power of our
Sundays. But central in the education of those
days is now, and has been from the first of our
national history, the English Bible.

The influence of the Bible comes also from
the fact that it makes its chief appeal to the
deeper elements in life. "Human history in its
real character is not an account of kings and of
wars; it is the unfolding of the moral, the political,
the artistic, the social, and the spiritual
progress of the human family. The time will
yet come when the names of dynasties and of
battles shall not form the titles of its chapters.
The truths revealed in the Bible have been the
touchstone which has tried men's spirits."[1]

[1] H. B. Smith, Faith and Philosophy, p. 54.

Those words go to the heart of the fact. The
influence of the English Bible on English-
speaking history for the last three hundred
years is only the influence of its fundamental
truths. It has moved with tremendous impact
on the wills of men. It has made the great
human ideals clear and definite; it has made
them beautiful and attractive; but that has not
been enough. It has reached also the springs of
action. It has given men a sense of need and
also a sense of strength, a sense of outrage and a
sense of power to correct the wrong. There it
has differed from most books. Frederick Robertson
said that he read only books with iron in
them, and, as he read, their atoms of iron entered
the blood, and it ran more red for them.
There is iron in this Book, and it has entered
the blood of the human race. Where it has
entered most freely, the red has deepened; and
nowhere has it deepened more than in our
English-speaking races. The iron of our blood
is from this King James version.

Bismarck explained the victories of the Germans
over the French by the fact that from
childhood the Germans had been trained in the
sense of duty, as the French had not been trained,
and as soldiers had learned to feel that nothing
could escape the Eye which ever watched their
course. They learned that, Bismarck said, from
the religion which they had been taught. There
is no mistaking the power of religion in rousing
and sharpening the sense of duty. Webster
spoke for the English-speaking races, and found
his phrases in the Bible, when he said that this
sense "pursues us ever. It is omnipresent like
the Deity. If we take to ourselves the wings
of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts
of the sea, duty performed or duty violated is
still with us for our happiness or our misery.
If we say the darkness shall cover us, in the
darkness as in the light our obligations are yet
with us. We cannot escape from their power or
fly from their presence." It is religion which
makes that sense of duty keen; and, whatever
religion has done among English-speaking races,
the English Bible has done, for it has been the
text-book and the final authority of those races
in the moving things of their faith.

It would be easiest in making the argument
to single out here and there the striking events
in which the Bible has figured and let them stand
for the whole. There are many such events,
and they are attractive.

We can imagine ourselves standing on the shore
at Dover in 1660, fifty years after the version
was issued, waiting with the crowd to see the
banished King return. The civil war is over,
the protectorate under Cromwell is past. Charles
II., thick-lipped, sensuous, "seeming to belong
rather to southern Europe than to Puritan England,"
is about to land from France, whence the
people, wearied with Puritan excesses, have called
him back. There is a great crowd, but they do
not cheer wildly. There is something serious
on hand. They mean to welcome the King; but
it is on condition. Their first act is when the
Mayor of Dover places in his hands a copy of
the English Bible, which the King declares he
loves above all things in the world. It proves
only a sorry jest; but the English people think
it is meant for truth, and they go to their homes
rejoicing. They rejoiced too soon, for this is
that utterly faithless king for whom his witty
courtier proposed an epitaph:

 "Here lies our sovereign lord, the king,
     Whose word no man relies on;
 Who never said a foolish thing,
     And never did a wise one."[1]

[1] White, in his History of England, says that Charles replied
that the explanation was easy: His discourses were his own, his
actions were his ministry's!

As at other times, the King was only talking
with no meaning; but the people did not know
him yet. They had made their Bible the great
test of their liberties: will a king stand by that
or will he not? If he will not, let him remember
Charles the First! And from that day no English
king, no American leader, has ever successfully
restricted English-speaking people from
free access to their great Book. It has become
a banner of their liberties. The child was wiser
than he knew when he was asked what lesson
we may learn from Charles I., and replied that
we may learn that a man should not lose his
head in times of excitement. Charles lost his
head long before he laid it on the block.

Besides the scene at Dover, we may watch
that great emigration of the Scotch-Irish from
Ulster, beginning in 1689, seventy years after
the Puritan exodus and eighty years after the
version was issued, which peopled the backwoods
of America with a choice, strong population.
They were only following the right to worship
freely, the right to their Bible without chains
on its lids or on the lips of its preachers. They
were making no protest against Romanism nor
against Anglicanism in themselves. They only
claimed the right to worship as they would.
Under William and Mary, after James II. had
fled to France, toleration became the law in
England; but when Ireland was reconquered
by William's generals, the act of toleration was
not extended to it. Baptists, Presbyterians, all
except the small Anglican Church, were put
under the ban and forbidden to worship. But
the Bible had made submission impossible, and
there came about that great exodus to the new
land which has so blessed it.

There are other signal events which might be
observed. But all the while there would be
danger of magnifying the importance of events
which seem to prove the point. The view needs
to be a more general one instead. The period
is not long--three hundred years at the most--
though it has a background of all English history.
We have already seen how from the first
there have been determined efforts to make the
Bible common to the people; yet, of course, the
influence of our version can appear only in these
three hundred years since it was issued. That
short period has not only been interesting almost
to the point of excitement in English life, but
it covers virtually all American life. Take,
therefore, the broader view of the influence of
the English Bible on history, apart from these
striking events.

It is to be assumed at once that much of its
influence is indirect. Indeed, its chief influence
must be through men who prove to be leaders
and through that public sentiment without which
leaders are powerless. If leaders live by it and
stand or fall by its teaching, then their work is
its work. If they find a public sentiment issuing
from it which gives them power, a sentiment
which crystallizes around them when they appear,
because it is of kindred spirit with themselves,
then the power of that sentiment is the power
of the Bible. The influence of Pilgrim's Progress
or The Saint's Rest is the influence of Bunyan
and Baxter; but back of them is the Bible. In
language, in idea, in spirit, they were only making
the Bible a common Book to their readers.
Their value for life and history is the Bible's
value for life and history.

The power of great souls is frequently and
easily underestimated. Scientific study has
tended to that by magnifying visible conditions
and by trying to calculate the force of
laws which are in plain sight. Buckle's theory
of civilization has influenced our times greatly.
It explains national character as the outcome of
natural conditions, and lays such stress on circumstances as left
it possible for Buckle to declare
that history and biography are in different
spheres. It is still true, however, that most
history turns on biography. Great souls have
been the chief factors in great movements.
Whether the movement could have occurred
without them will never be possible to decide,
if it should be disputed. In a chemical laboratory
the essential factors of any phenomenon
can be determined by the process of elimination.
All the elements which preceded it except one
can be introduced; if the result is the same as
in its presence, manifestly it is not essential.
So the experiment can go on until the result becomes
different, when it is evident that the last
omitted element is an essential one. But no
such process is possible in great historical movements.
The only course open to us is to consider
carefully the elements which do appear.

Take three great movements which are easiest
to follow in these three centuries. Whether the
spiritual independence of England would have
been secured without the Quakers may be debated;
but this fact can hardly be debated:
certainly it was not so secured; whether or not
the Quakers could have been without George
Fox, certainly they did not occur without him.
Take the second: whether or not some other
movement could have done what Puritanism
did is hardly a question for history; Puritanism
actually did the work for England and America
which gave both their strongest qualities. There
is no testing the period to see whether Puritanism
could be left out. There it stands as a
powerful factor, and no analysis of the history
can possibly omit it. Or the third: it is not a
question for a historian whether English history
could have been the same without Methodism
and whether Methodism could have been at all
without the Wesleys; certainly nothing took its
place, nor did any one else stand at the head of
the movement.

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

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

[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.



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

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

 "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

 "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

[1] 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."[1] 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.

[1] 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."[1]
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

[1] 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

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."[1]

[1] 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.

End of Project Gutenberg Etext of Study of the King James Bible, McAfee