S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
By the way, how much more comfortable, as well as rational, is this system of the Psalmist [Psalm cvii.] than the pagan scheme in Virgil and other poets, where one deity is represented as raising a storm, and another as laying it! Were we only to consider the sublime in this piece of poetry, what can be nobler than the idea it gives us of the Supreme Being thus raising a tumult among the elements and recovering them out of their confusion?
They who are not induced to believe and live as they ought, by those discoveries which God hath made in Scripture, would stand out against any evidence whatever; even that of a messenger sent express from the other world.
As those wines which flow from the first treading of the grapes are sweeter and better than those forced out by the press, which gives them the roughness of the husk and the stone, so are those doctrines best and sweetest which flow from a gentle crush of the Scriptures and are not wrung into controversies and commonplaces.
There is not a book on earth so favourable to all the kind, and to all the sublime, affections, or so unfriendly to hatred and persecution, to tyranny, injustice, and every sort of malevolence, as the GOSPEL. It breathes nothing throughout but mercy, benevolence, and peace . Such of the doctrines of the gospel as are level to human capacity appear to be agreeable to the purest truth and soundest morality. All the genius and learning of the heathen world, all the penetration of Pythagoras, Socrates, and Aristotle, had never been able to produce such a system of moral duty, and so rational an account of Providence and of man, as is to be found in the New Testament.
The Bible is a precious storehouse, and the Magna Charta of a Christian. There he reads of his heavenly Fathers love, and of his dying Saviours legacies. There he sees a map of his travels through the wilderness, and a landscape, too, of Canaan. And when he climbs on Pisgabs top, and views the promised land, his heart begins to burn, delighted with the blessed prospect, and amazed at the rich and free salvation. But a mere professor, though a decent one, looks on the Bible as a dull book, and peruseth it with such indifference as you would read the title-deeds belonging to another mans estate.
It is not oftentimes so much what the Scripture says, as what some men persuade others it says, that makes it seem obscure; and that, as to some other passages, that are so indeed (since it is the abstruseness of what is taught in them that makes them almost inevitably so), it is little less saucy, upon such a score, to find fault with the style of the Scripture, than to do so with the Author for making us but men.
If there be an analogy or likeness between that system of things and dispensation of Providence which revelation informs us of, and that system of things and dispensation of Providence which experience, together with reason, informs us of, that is, the known course of nature; this is a presumption that they have both the same author and cause, at least so far as to answer the objections against the formers being from God, drawn from anything which is analogical or similar to what it is in the latter, which is acknowledged to be from him.
But what is meant, after all, by uneducated, in a time when Books have come into the worldcome to be household furniture in every habitation of the civilized world? In the poorest cottage are Booksis one BOOK, wherein for several thousands of years the spirit of man has found light and nourishment and an interpreting response to whatever is Deepest in him.
I call that [the Book of Job], apart from all theories about it, one of the grandest things ever written with pen. One feels, indeed, as if it were not Hebrew; such a noble universality, different from noble patriotism, or sectarianism, reigns in it. A noble book! all mens book! It is our first, oldest statement of the neverending problem, mans destiny, and Gods ways with him here in this earth. And all in such free flowing outlines; grand in its sincerity, in its simplicity, in its epic melody and repose of reconcilement. There is the seeing eye, the mildly understanding heart. So true every way; true eyesight and vision for all things; material things no less than spiritual: the horse,Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder? he laughs at the shaking of the spear! Such living likenesses were never since drawn. Sublime sorrow, sublime reconciliation; oldest choral melody as of the heart of mankind; so soft and great; as the summer midnight, as the world with its seas and stars! there is nothing written, I think, in the Bible or out of it, of equal literary merit.
Prize and study the Scripture. We can have no delight in meditation on him unless we know him; and we cannot know him but by the means of his own revelation; when the revelation is despised, the revealer will be of little esteem. Men do not throw off God from being their rule, till they throw off Scripture from being their guide; and God must needs be cast off from being an end, when the Scripture is rejected from being a rule. Those that do not care to know his will, that love to be ignorant of his nature, can never be affected to his honour. Let therefore the subtleties of reason vail to the doctrine of faith, and the humour of the will to the command of the word.
For more than a thousand years the Bible, collectively taken, has gone hand in hand with civilization, science, lawin short, with the moral and intellectual cultivation of the speciesalways supporting, and often leading the way. Its very presence, as a believed Book, has rendered the nations emphatically a chosen race; and this, too, in exact proportion as it is more or less generally known and studied. Of those nations which in the highest degree enjoy its influences it is not too much to affirm that the differences, public and private, physical, moral, and intellectual, are only less than what might have been expected from a diversity of species. Good and holy men, and the best and wisest of mankind, the kingly spirits of history, enthroned in the hearts of mighty nations, have borne witness to its influences, have declared it to be beyond compare the most perfect instrument of Humanity.
It is sufficiently humiliating to our nature to reflect that our knowledge is but as the rivulet, our ignorance as the sea. On points of the highest interest, the moment we quit the light of revelation we shall find that Platonism itself is intimately connected with Pyrrhonism, and the deepest inquiry with the darkest doubt.
What can we imagine more proper for the ornaments of wit and learning in the story of Deucalion than in that of Noah? Why will not the actions of Samson afford as plentiful matter as the labours of Hercules? Why is not Jephthahs daughter as good a woman as Iphigenia? and the friendship of David and Jonathan more worthy celebration than that of Theseus and Pirithous? Does not the passage of Moses and the Israelites into the Holy Land yield incomparably more poetic variety than the voyages of Ulysses or Æneas? Are the obsolete, threadbare tales of Thebes and Troy half so stored with great, heroical, and supernatural actions (since verse will needs find or make such) as the wars of Joshua, of the Judges, of David, and divers others? Can all the transformations of the gods give such copious hints to flourish and expatiate upon as the true miracles of Christ, or of his prophets and apostles? What do I instance in these few particulars? All the books of the Bible are either already most admirable and exalted pieces of poesy, or are the best materials in the world for it.
The parable of the prodigal son, the most beautiful fiction that ever was invented; our Saviours speech to his disciples, with which he closes his earthly ministration, full of the sublimest dignity and tenderest affection, surpass everything that I ever read; and, like the Spirit by which they were dictated, fly directly to the heart.
The highest historical probability can be adduced in support of the proposition, that, if it were possible to annihilate the Bible, and with it all its influences, we should destroy with it the whole spiritual system of the moral worldall our great moral ideasrefinement of mannersconstitutional governmentequitable administration and security of propertyour schools, hospitals, and benevolent associationsthe pressthe fine artsthe equality of the sexes, and the blessings of the fireside; in a word, all that distinguishes Europe and America from Turkey and Hindostan.
Who will say that the uncommon beauty and marvellous English of the Protestant Bible is not one of the strongholds of heresy in this country? It lives on the ear like a music that can never be forgotten, like the sound of church bells, which the convert hardly knows how he can forego. Its felicities often seem to be almost things rather than mere words. It is part of the national mind, and the anchor of national seriousness. Nay, it is worshipped with a positive idolatry, in extenuation of whose gross fanaticism its intrinsic beauty pleads availingly with the man of letters and the scholar. The memory of the dead passes into it. The potent traditions of childhood are stereotyped in its phrases. The power of all the griefs and trials of a man is hidden beneath its words. It is the representative of his best moments; and all that there has been about him of soft, and gentle, and pure, and penitent, and good, speaks to him forever out of his English Bible. It is his sacred thing, which doubt has never dimmed and controversy never soiled. It has been to him all along as the silent, but oh, how intelligible, voice of his guardian angel; and in the length and breadth of the land there is not a Protestant with one spark of religiousness about him whose spiritual biography is not in his Saxon Bible.
F. W. Faber (Roman Catholic): Quoted in Dublin Rev., June, 1853.
The peculiar genius, if such a word may be permitted, which breathes through it, the mingled tenderness and majesty, the Saxon simplicity, the preternatural grandeur, unequalled, unapproached, in the attempted improvements of modern scholars,all are here, and bear the impress of the mind of one man, and that man William Tyndale.
The Christian faith has been, and is still, very fiercely and obstinately attacked. How many efforts have been made and are still made, how many books, serious or frivolous, able or silly, have been and are spread incessantly, in order to destroy it in mens minds! Where has this redoubtable struggle been supported with the greatest energy and success? and where has Christian faith been best defended? There where the reading of the Sacred Books is a general and assiduous part of public worship,there where it takes place in the interior of families and in solitary meditation. It is the Bible, the Bible itself, which combats and triumphs most efficaciously in the war between incredulity and belief.
The veneration we shall feel for the Bible as the depository of saving knowledge will be totally distinct, not only from what we attach to any other book, but from that admiration its other properties inspire; and the variety and antiquity of its history, the light it affords in various researches, its inimitable touches of nature, together with the sublimity and beauty so copiously poured over its pages, will be deemed subsidiary ornaments, the embellishments of the casket which contains the pearl of great price.
Robert Hall: Advantages of Knowledge to the Lower Classes.
To say nothing of the inimitable beauties of the Bible, considered in a literary view, which are universally acknowledged, it is the book which every devout man is accustomed to consult as the oracle of God; it is the companion of his best moments, and the vehicle of his strongest consolations. Intimately associated in his mind with everything dear and valuable, its diction more powerfully excites devotional feelings than any other; and when temperately and soberly used, imparts an unction to a religious discourse which nothing else can supply.
If an uninterested spectator, after a careful perusal of the New Testament, were asked what he conceived to be its distinguishing characteristic, he would reply, without hesitation, That wonderful spirit of philanthropy by which it is distinguished. It is a perpetual commentary on that sublime aphorism, God is love.
With whom ordinary means will prevail, surely the power of the word of God, even without the help of interpreters, in Gods church worketh mightily, not unto their confirmation alone which are converted, but also to their conversion which are not.
Unto the word of God, being, in respect of that end for which God ordained it, perfect, exact, and absolute in itself, we do not add reason as a supplement of any maim or defect therein, but as a necessary instrument, without which we could not reap by the Scriptures perfection that fruit and benefit which it yieldeth.
We are astonished to find in a lyrical poem of such a limited compass [Psalm civ.] the whole universethe heavens and the earthsketched with a few bold touches. The calm and toilsome life of man, from the rising of the son to the setting of the same when his daily work is done, is here contrasted with the moving life of the elements of nature. This contrast and generalization in the conception of natural phenomena, and the retrospection of an omnipresent, invisible Power, which can renew the earth or crumble it to dust, constitute a solemn and exalted form of poetic creation.
That he was not scrupulously pious in some part of his life, is known by many idle and indecent applications of sentences taken from the Scriptures; a mode of merriment which a good man dreads for its profaneness, and a witty man disdains for its easiness and vulgarity.
I have carefully and regularly perused these Holy Scriptures, and am of opinion that the volume, independently of its divine origin, contains more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, purer morality, more important history, and finer strains of poetry and eloquence, than could be collected within the same compass from all other books, in whatever age or language they may have been written.
The general diffusion of the Bible is the most effectual way to civilize and humanize mankind; to purify and exalt the general system of public morals; to give efficacy to the just precepts of international and municipal law; to enforce the observance of prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude; and to improve all the relations of social and domestic life.
Before I translated the New Testament out of the Greek, all longed for it; when it was done, their longing lasted scarce four weeks. Then they desired the books of Moses; when I had translated these, they had enough thereof in a short time. After that, they would have the Psalms; of these they were soon weary, and desired other books. So it will be with the book of Ecclesiastes, which they now long for, and about which I have taken great pains. All is acceptable until our giddy brains be satisfied; afterwards we let things lie, and seek after new.
At the time when that odious style which deforms the writings of Hall and of Lord Bacon was almost universal, had appeared that stupendous work, the English Bible, a book which, if everything else in our language should perish, would alone suffice to show the whole extent of its beauty and power. The respect which the translators felt for the original prevented them from adding any of the hideous decorations then in fashion. The ground-work of the version, indeed, was of an earlier age.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: John Dryden, Jan. 1828.
A man who wishes to serve the cause of religion ought to hesitate long before he stakes the truth of religion on the event of a controversy respecting facts in the physical world. For a time he may succeed in making a theory which he dislikes unpopular by persuading the public that it contradicts the Scriptures and is inconsistent with the attributes of the Deity. But if at last an overwhelming force of evidence proves this maligned theory to be true, what is the effect of the arguments by which the objector has attempted to prove that it is irreconcilable with natural and revealed religion? Merely this, to make men infidels. Like the Israelites in their battle with the Philistines, he has presumptuously and without warrant brought down the ark of God into the camp as a means of insuring victory; and the consequence of this profanation is that, when the battle is lost, the ark is taken.
In every age the Church has been cautioned against this fatal and impious rashness by its most illustrious members,by the fervid Augustin, by the subtle Aquinas, by the all-accomplished Pascal. The warning has been given in vain. That close alliance which, under the disguise of the most deadly enmity, has always subsisted between fanaticism and atheism is still unbroken. At one time the cry was, If you hold that the earth moves round the sun, you deny the truth of the Bible. Popes, conclaves, and religious orders rose up against the Copernican heresy. But, as Pascal said, they could not prevent the earth from moving, or themselves from moving along with it.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Sadlers Law of Population, July, 1830.
The Scripture affords us a divine pastoral drama in the Song of Solomon, consisting of two persons and a double chorus, as Origen rightly judges; and the Apocalypse of St. John is a majestic image of a high and stately tragedy, shutting and intermingling her solemn scenes and acts with a sevenfold chorus of hallelujahs and harping symphonies. And this my opinion, the grave authority of Pareus, commenting that book, is sufficient to confirm. Or, if occasion shall lead, to imitate those magnific odes and hymns, wherein Pindarus and Callimachus are in most things worthy, some others in their frame judicious, in their matter most an end faulty. But those frequent songs, throughout the laws and prophets, beyond all these, not in their divine argument alone, but in the very original art of composition, may be easily made appear over all the kinds of lyric poesy to be incomparable.
All systems of morality are fine. The Gospel alone has exhibited a complete assemblage of the principles of morality, divested of all absurdity. It is not composed, like your creed, of a few commonplace sentences put into bad verse. Do you wish to see that which is really sublime? Repeat the Lords Prayer.
The Gospel possesses a secret virtue, a mysterious efficacy, a warmth which penetrates and soothes the heart. One finds in meditating upon it that which one experiences in contemplating the heavens. The Gospel is not a book; it is a living being, with an action, a power, which invades everything that opposes its extension. Behold it upon this table, this book surpassing all others (here the Emperor solemnly placed his hand upon it): I never omit to read it, and every day with the same pleasure . Not only is our mind absorbed, it is controlled; and the soul can never go astray with this book for its guide. Once master of our spirit, the faithful Gospel loves us. God even is our friend, our father, and truly our God. The mother has no greater care for the infant whom she nurses.
What a proof of the divinity of Christ! With an empire so absolute, he has but one single end,the spiritual melioration of individuals, the purity of conscience, the union to that which is true, the holiness of the soul . If you [General Bertrand] do not perceive that Jesus Christ is God, very well: then I did wrong to make you a general.
Napoleon I. (at St. Helena): See also Sentiment de Napoléon sur le Christianisme, Conversations religieuses, recueillies ô Sainte-Hélène par M. le Général Comte de Montholon: par le Chevalier de Beauterne.
I find more sure marks of the authenticity of the Bible than in any profane history whatever . Worshipping God and the Lamb in the temple: God, for his benefaction in creating all things, and the Lamb, for his benefaction in redeeming us with his blood.
There is no one book extant in any language or in any country which can in any degree be compared with it [the Bible] for antiquity, for authority, for the importance, the dignity, the variety, and the curiosity of the matter it contains.
Beware of misapplying Scripture. It is a thing easily done, but not so easily answered. I know not any one gap that hath let in more and more dangerous errors into the Church than this,that men take the word of the sacred text, fitted to particular occasions, and to the condition of the times wherein they were written, and then apply them to themselves and others, as they find them, without due respect had to the differences that may be between those times and cases and the present.
In lyric flow and fire, in crushing force, in majesty that seems still to echo the awful sounds once heard beneath the thunder-clouds of Sinai, the poetry of the ancient Scriptures is the most superb that ever burned within the breast of man. The picturesque simplicity of their narration gives an equal charm to the historical books. Vigour, beauty, sententiousness, variety, enrich and adorn the ethical parts of the collection.
The most learned, acute, and diligent student cannot, in the longest life, obtain an entire knowledge of this one volume. The more deeply he works the mine, the richer and more abundant he finds the ore; new light continually beams from this source of heavenly knowledge, to direct the conduct, and illustrate the work of God and the ways of men; and he will at last leave the world confessing that the more he studied the Scriptures, the fuller conviction he had of his own ignorance, and of their inestimable value.
The history I am going to speak of is that of Joseph in Holy Writ, which is related with such majestic simplicity, that all the parts of it strike us with strong touches of nature and compassion; and he must be a stranger to both, who can read it with attention and not be overwhelmed with the vicissitudes of joy and sorrow. I hope it will not be a profanation to tell it ones own way here, that they who may be unthinking enough to be more frequently readers of such papers as this, than of Sacred Writ, may be advertised that the greatest pleasures the imagination can be entertained with are to be found there, and that even the style of the Scriptures is more than human.
No translation our own country ever yet produced hath come up to that of the Old and New Testament; and I am persuaded that the translators of the Bible were masters of an English style much fitter for that work than any we see in our present writings; the which is owing to the simplicity that runs through the whole.
Many persons have never reflected on the circumstance that one of the earliest translations of the Scriptures into a vernacular tongue was made by the Church of Rome. The Latin Vulgate was so called from its being in the vulgari.e., the popularlanguage then spoken in Italy and the neighbouring countries: and that version was evidently made on purpose that the Scriptures might be intelligibly read by, or read to, the mass of the people. But gradually and imperceptibly Latin was superseded by the languages derived from it,Italian, Spanish, and French,while the Scriptures were still left in Latin; and when it was proposed to translate them into modern tongues, this was regarded as a perilous innovation, though it is plain that the real innovation was that which had taken place imperceptibly, since the very object proposed by the Vulgate version was that the Scriptures might not be left in an unknown tongue.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Innovations.