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the “tongue of the Egyptian Sea.”—You read of “New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven”-of a “rainbow round about the throne".
sea of glass”—and of a “woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet.” have allegory, apologue, parable and enigma, all clearly understood and enforcing truth with a strong and indelible impression. Here you have significant actions uttering volumes of instruction; as when 6 Jesus called a little child and set him in the midst of his disciples and said, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”-as when he cursed the barren fig-tree—as when he “washed his disciples' feet.” And where is there a comparison like this,-“ And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together.” Where is there a description like this," And I saw an angel standing in the sun—and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the fowls that fly in the midst of heaven, Come and gather yourselves together unto the supper of the great God.” Or where is there a sentence like the following“ And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away, and there was found no place for them.”
English literature is no common debtor to the Bible. In what department of English literature may not the difference be discovered between the spirit and sentiments of Christian writers and those who have drawn all their materials of thought and of ornament from pagan writers? In the language of an anonymous writer, “ Not to say that antiquity furnishes no example of a philosopher who could think like Newton; or a moralist who could illustrate human obligation like Edwards or Johnson; we find a proof of the superiority of Christian principles even in those works of imagination which are deemed scarcely susceptible of influence from religion. The common romance and the novel, with all their fooleries and ravings, would be more contemptible than they are, did they not sometimes undesignedly catch a conception, or adorn a character from the rich treasury of revelation. And the more splendid fictions of the poet derive their highest charm from the evangelical philanthropy, tenderness and sublimity that invest them. But for the Bible, Homer and Milton might have stood upon the same shelf, equals in morality, as they are competitors for renown. Young had been ranked with Juvenal; and Cowper had united with Horace and with Ovid, to swell the tide of voluptuousness.”
There is not a finer character nor a finer description in all the works of Walter Scott, than that of Rebekah in Ivanhoe. And who does not see that it owes its excellence to the Bible? Shakspeare, Byron and Southey are not a little indebted for some of their best scenes and inspirations to the same source. At the suggestion of a valued friend, I have turned my thoughts to the parallel between Macbeth and Ahabbetween Lady Macbeth and Jezebel-between the announcement to Macduff of the murder of his family, and that to David of the death of Absalom by Joabto the parallel between the opening of the lamentations of Jeremiah, and Byron's apostrophe to Rome as the Niobe of nations—to the parallel betwen his ode to Napoleon, and Isaiah's ode on the fall of Sennacherib—and also to the resemblance between Southey's chariot of Carmala in the Curse of Kehama, and Ezekiel's vision of the wheels; and I have been forcibly impressed with the obligations of this class of writers to the sacred Scriptures.
May it not be doubted whether scholars have been sufficiently sensible of their obligations to our common English Bible? It is the purest specimen of English, or Anglo-Saxon, to be found in the world. It was made by the order of James the I. in 1607, by fortyseven of the most able and learned men of Westminster, Oxford, and Cambridge. It has stood the test of two hundred and thirty years' experience, and is a noble monument of the integrity, fidelity, and learning of its venerable translators. Addison remarks, “ There is a certain coldness in the phrases of European languages, compared with the oriental forms of speech. The English tongue has received innumerable improvements from an infusion of Hebraisms, derived out of the poetical passages in holy writ. They warm and animate our language, give it force and energy, and convey our thoughts in ardent and intense phrases. There is something in this kind of diction that often sets the mind in a flame and makes our hearts burn within us.” Nor has it been at all improved by American philologists. Was it too much for a learned commentator to say, “Our. translators have not only made a standard translation; but they have made their translation the standard of our language. The English tongue in their day was not equal to such a work. But God enabled them to stand as upon Mount Sinai, and crane up their country's language to the dignity of the originals; so that after the lapse of two hundred years, the English Bible, with very few exceptions, is the standard of the purity and excellence of the English tongue.”
The Bible has also been the instrument of preserving and diffusing classical learning among the most polished and literary nations. On the subversion of
her fairest temples, ofttimes has literature taken refuge in the asylums of Christianity. Since the ark that once contained and preserved this sacred book was destroyed, this hallowed volume has been itself the ark in which were contained and preserved for the long night of a thousand years, and amid the rude assaults of barbarous nations, “the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” More than once, when ignorance has enslaved the human mind, has the Bible stricken off its fetters. The Scriptures constrain men to be learned. So that while on the one hand, literature has nothing to lose, but much to gain from the Bible, the Bible has much to gain, and nothing to lose from
solid literature. “A little learning,' says Lord Bacon, “tendeth to atheism; but more bringeth us back to religion.” It is for the interests of religion to encourage the pursuit of science and literature in every form and department. The more the Bible is brought to the test of intellectual research, the more abundant will be the evidence of its superiority. From the comparative study of languages, from the natural history of the human race, from the whole circle of natural sciences, from early history, from oriental literature, from the most rigid scrutiny of its most acute and learned enemies, it has nothing to fear. The ignorance of its friends may give its enemies a short-lived triumph; but it shall be as ignoble, as it is momentary; and the weapons by which it has been accomplished shall be broken and thrown back, recoiling on the heads of those who wield them. Should some future Julian arise, who should debar the friends of the Bible the lights of science, the unbelieving world, and the powers of darkness might be emboldened to assail it with new confidence. But I trust in God that time is past. And were it possible that the world could again be subjected to the caprice of a single man, and receive its laws from a despot, Jesus Christ is, as he ever has been, “ Head over all things to the church,” and will make all things subservient to her interests. The power of despots shall be extended or diminished, as it shall ultimately extend or diminish the power of the gospel. Wise men of the East shall again offer incense to the child of Mary. The Scribe and the Rabbi shall yet wreathe garlands for the ark of the Covenant. The science of France and the learning of Germany shall become as truly tributary to the cause of truth and holiness, as was the gold of Ophir. And the most illustrious classics of antiquity shall gather their freshest bays to adorn the temples once crowned with thorns.
If it were for nothing but their literary merit therefore, these Scriptures claim the earnest attention of the young. I know of no standard by which the character of literary and scientific men may be so safely and successfully formed. The more he reads, the more, I am confident, an accomplished scholar will study the Bible. There are no finer English scholars than the men educated north of the Tweed. And there are none who, from their childhood, are so well acquainted with the Bible. I have heard it said that the characteristic wit of Scotchmen is attributable to their early familiarity with the Proverbs of Solomon. No well informed man, no well educated family is ignorant of the Bible. We can better afford to part with every other book from our family libraries, our schools, and colleges, than this finished production of the infinite Mind.