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ITS INFLUENCE ON RELIGION.
are chargeable, but from this sin they were preserved.
The history of the gospel and of modern missions confirms this view. Wherever religion, once known, has become extinct, there has either been no Bible, or the Bible, though translated in whole or in part, has been, from circumstances or from system, withheld. Once South America was, to a large extent, nominally converted to “ the faith ; Japan. Now the people of both countries are sunk in the darkest heathenism. Those who visited them kept the Bible out of their hands. The light was put under a bushel by the very men who introduced it into the house, and now the light itself, such as it was, has perished. The lesson taught by these missions is obvious. A permanent, accessible record of religious truths seems essential to secure their permanent influence. David ascribes his wisdom and stedfastness to his study of the law; and the cure for apostasy, apostles tell us, is to give heed to the things we have been taught through their word and their epistles. Without such heed we shall let them slip, and must then sink again into a state of profounder degradation than the one we had left.
If the reader wish a fact of an opposite kind, he may turn to the history of Madagascar. There the disciples of Christ have been for many years exposed to bitter persecution, but though there have been many martyrs, there has not been one apostate ; with holy stedfast
BIOGRAPHY OF THE BIBLE. ness have the converts adhered to the faith. The explanation we now find to be, that they had the Scriptures among them, and that, though the foreign missionary could not longer reach them, they found there the secret of their comfort and strength.
What is thus essential for the preservation of religion is no less required for its revival. Contrast, for example, the state of the Jews before the reformation by Josiah with their condition after it, the reformation itself being the fruit of the discovery and dissemination of the book of the law, (Zeph. iii. 1–7; 2 Kings xxii. 11 ; 2 Chron. xxxiv. 30-33 ;) or mark the effects of the study of the Scriptures in the case of the same people, as recorded in the eighth and thirteenth chapters of Nehemiah, and it will be seen that the habitual study of Divine truth, such study as only a written record allows, is under God the great instrument of religious improvement. Knowledge alone may change the opinions of men, but it is meditation that influences their principles, moulds their characters, and subdues their hearts.
The mightiest instrument of the Reformation in Europe was Luther's version of the Bible ; and the Reformation made but little progress comparatively till that work was completed. In our own country the progress of evangelical faith among the people was owing to the multiplication of the English Scriptures; no fewer than one hundred and three editions of the Old or New
ITS INFLUENCE ON LEARNING.
Testament having been printed during the reigns of Henry vil, and Edward VI., a period of only twenty-eight years. In India the history of missions illustrates the same truth. The first conversion in Bengal took place after seven years of labour, and as the first Bengali Testaments were beginning to circulate in that country. Since that time the progress of conversion has kept pace in India, and in most parts of the earth, with the progress of translation. The history of the Bible, therefore, is really the history of what is the great element of the revival and progress of all true religion.
It is also the history of civilization and learning. A written Bible, to be useful, must be circulated and read ; and a circulated Bible implies a correspondent duty. The principle involved in the existence and circulation of such writings is, that it is our right, and in this case our duty, to examine them : an ennobling right, a solemn duty! The ideas which the Bible reveals are the grandest that can occupy our thoughts, and the most powerful in their influence on our character. Wherever, therefore, the Bible goes and is studied, it carries with it thought, inquiry, decision. Popery teaches both error and truth—but with a system which most needs investigation, yet forbids it, and enjoins on all to submit the results of their inquiries to the lessons of authority. The Bible, on the other hand, reveals all truth and nothing but truth, bids men examine its disclosures, and then submit to what they find
BIOGRAPHY OF THE BIBLE.
to be revealed. “ Prove all things,” is its first message ; and its second, Hold fast that which is good.” These precepts it enforces by telling men that for the results of this examination, and the conscientious discharge of the duties connected with it, they must finally give account unto God. Clearly, wherever the Bible goes, and this doctrine is embraced, men's minds cannot fail to be brought into contact with truth, nor can inquiry and truth fail to form a thoughtful, earnest character, even though, alas ! the spiritual significance of the gospel may not be fully perceived.
The tendency of Protestantism to promote inquiry and learning soon showed itself, and was strengthened by other influences. With the study of the Bible, for example, originated in modern times the study of antiquities, of the philosophy of languages, and kindred subjects. To translate Scripture it was needful to become acquainted with the original. To the Bible, therefore, we owe the labours, in this department, of Melancthon, Calvin, Zwingle, Buxtorf, Michaelis, Eichhorn, Schultens, Lightfoot, Kennicott, Lardner, and Lowth. To the Bible we owe the most eminent critical scholars of modern times—Heyne, Ernesti, Heeren, Schulz, Wolf, Bentley, Spanheim, Voss.
In jurisprudence and history, no authorities are superior to Grotius, Sleidan, Puffendorf, and Locke, the Basnages, L'Enfant, Mosheim, Walch and Cramer, and Niebuhr. The precepts of the Bible bid men inquire. The neces
ITS INFLUENCE ON LITERATURE.
sities of religious truth made inquiry essential, and hence these men, all Protestants, have intermeddled with all knowledge, and done more for the progress of literature in three hundred years than was done in the thousand which preceded them.
So in more modern times, and in distant countries, everywhere the progress of literature has been accelerated by the translation of the Bible. In India, for example, mere dialects have been raised by Christian missionaries into the place and dignity of settled tongues. Dr. Carey found the Bengali a rude medium of thought, without grammars and without ascertained principles of speech. He left it clearly defined ; adapted, moreover, for conveying to those who speak it the subtlest and sublimest truth.* Agents of the Society with which Dr. Carey was connected have, in the last fifty years, written fourteen grammars and nine dictionaries, beside a large number of elementary treatises in different tongues, the whole originating in an intense desire to make the Bible intelligible. The richness and beauty of the Sanscrit were praised by sir William Jones ; but its qualities were never fully tested or known till the era of missions and of biblical translation. At this moment the Chinese language is undergoing an amount of investigation and analysis, such as the learned men of China have never attempted, and the motive is to make a perfect version of the word of life.
* H. H. Wilson, Esq.