The Bible and other Books

It is of the Bible we are about to speak. Not of the Bible as one among many books, but as superior to all other books. Nor does it differ from them merely as one book differs from another. It is not simply the favourite book of a sect, or an age, nor is it the best of its kind. It stands before the world unique, defying all comparison or competition. It owes nothing to any other, although every other is indebted to it. The Bible differs from every other book.

1. Every book must have an author, and an author whose moral and intellectual perceptions are equal to the task. Now we assert, and you must allow us for the present to take as granted, that the book we call the Bible infinitely transcends the moral and intellectual powers of any man, or any set of men of which history makes mention; and this is not less true even of the men whose names are associated with its production. Our assertion is that the Bible contains “the oracles of God”--that God is its author--that its origin can and must be traced to the Almighty mind. Nor do we merely trace it to it, as we are bound to trace every good thought, “every holy desire, and every wise counsel,” but in a far more direct and positive manner.

2. Its history already is of itself a science, in which a lifetime would be too short to become perfect. Some portions of it are older than any known record besides. None of it belongs to one age alone--“It goes up to the beginning of all things, and gives some prophetic notices of the end of all things”--whilst every passing age affords some evidence that it is intimately connected with it. It brings us into company with the greatest men the world has ever seen; gives us faithful biographies of such men as Moses, and David, and Solomon, and Daniel, and Paul, and John, and Jesus. Nor does it stop here. Its subsequent history cannot be traced apart from the names of Wycliffe, and Tyndale, and Luther, and such men; “of whom the world was not worthy” who have baptized it with their tears, embalmed it with their prayers, and in many instances sealed it with their blood. Its history runs parallel, too, with the history of the most learned, most mighty, and most polished nations of antiquity; and still holds on its way, and will, till “the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ.” Against it earth and hell have been leagued, and many times has every copy been hunted out to be burned, as though it were the enemy of God and man. Does it not differ, then, from every other book in its history? And shall a book with such a history have no charm for us? A book connected with the most blessed memories and holiest associations, and divinest providences, shall it not secure our warmest attachment, our devoutest study, and our unwavering confidence? If it deserve it not, there is no book on earth that does.

3. Every author has a style peculiarly his own, and oftentimes it is so strongly marked that many who know the author can easily detect his anonymous productions. So is it with the book of which God is the author. The first thing which strikes us perhaps on minutely examining the style of the Bible is its unity. This, then, is the one theme pervading the whole--the system of redeeming mercy--this is interwoven with the whole texture. Another thing which strikes us in its style is its sublime simplicity. The treasures of heaven, the secrets of God, the depths of eternity, are made clear to the mind of a little child. Here, too, we may note the perfect naturalness of its style. There is no apparent forcing--no trace of strong, continued effort--no elaboration or embellishments--no special pleading--no ransacking of deep and dark abysses for arguments and illustrations. Where, then, for style can you find its equal? To what other book can you compare it? Not more widely does the smallest and faintest star differ from the glorious orb of day than every other book differs in style from the book we call the Bible.

4. A book is worthless or valuable in proportion to the new truths it unfolds, to the light it throws on old truths, or to the purifying and elevating thought it presents. Now every page, almost every line, in the Bible, if thus estimated, becomes invaluable. But what are those revelations which make it differ from all other books? The most we can do here is to give a very imperfect and curtailed account of them. Among many others it reveals to us God in all His perfections. It reveals to us man as he was, is, and might be. The disclosures it makes on this subject are such as our consciousness approves. Oh, what would have been our condition without these revelations! and whence could they have come had not God in His merciful condescension vouchsafed them!

5. But what book has exerted a tithe of the influence that the Bible has over individuals, and families, and societies, and institutions,, and governments, and nations? It has gone hand in hand with civilization, science, law, and has been the precursor of all that could elevate the physical, intellectual, and moral condition of a people. It is the influence of the Bible which has made our nation emphatically a great nation. “The elegant mythologies of Greece and Rome made no proselytes among other nations, and fell hopelessly the moment they fell. The Koran of Mahomet has, it is true, been propagated by the sword, but it has been propagated by nothing else; and its dominion has been limited to those nations who could not reply to that logic.” Happy is the man who experimentally understands its influence!

6. We have frequently seen of late books whose titles inform us that they are books “for the age.” The Bible has ever been “a book for the age.” Men have ever felt it speaking to their inner selves. Nor is its wonderful adaptation confined to one, or even the greatest of man’s wants. It is not, like most other books, a book of one idea. It is adapted to man, individual and social, in his private or public capacity. It touches him at every point. His emotional, intellectual, moral, spiritual, and physical natures are contemplated and provided for. Well has it been said, “Only in this way of love and of obedience shall we enter truly into any of the hidden riches which it contains, for that only which we love we know. No book, much less the highest, yields its secrets, reveals its wonders to any but the reverent, the loving, and the humble.” (J. Hallett.)

- Biblical Illustrator