Page images
PDF
EPUB

Bible in this respect, with the Koran for instance. When the Saracens, in their conquests, became masters of the Alexandrian Library, then the greatest storehouse of learning in the world, they were desired to spare it from the ruin which every where followed their arms. The reply which Omar is said to have given, was, that “if the Library contained nothing but what was in the Koran, it was useless, and if it contained anything more, it was dangerous and hurtful; and in either case it ought to be destroyed.” Whether the story be true or false, it developes the true spirit of the Mohammedan creed. Its whole tendency is to hamper inquiry; to warp the faculties of the mind, to confine it within the limits of the Koran, as in a pillory; to subdue every desire which would know anything beyond it, or weigh the reasonableness and truth of what is in it. And such is the case more or less, with all false religions. The very heaven to which they profess to conduct man, they make to consist, not so much in the enjoyments of the soul, and the growth of its powers, as in the enjoyments of sense, which man shares in common with the irrational world around him.

As a

Not so the Bible. It throws open its every page, and enjoins it upon us to “search the Scriptures;” not only to read, but to examine them; to view them in every aspect in which we can place them, and to try their truth and genuineness as we would try the purity of fine gold. The spirit which the Gospel breathes on its disciples, it expressly calls a “spirit of wisdom and knowledge.” fruit of its wide diffusion through the world, it foretells, that "many shall run to and fro throughout the earth, and knowledge shall be increased;" that “the eyes of them that see shall not be dim ;" and that such shall be the increase of wisdom and intelligence, that “the light of the Moon shall be as the light of the Sun; and the light of the Sun shall be seven fold, as the light of seven days.” While also it holds up God's word, as the best and highest revelation of his wisdom and goodness, it carries us abroad to all his works above and around us, and commands us to study their origin, nature and end; saying, “Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, and bringeth out their hosts by number.” And then having impelled men to the cultivation of their best faculties

here on earth, it tells us that enlarged, and ever enlarging knowledge is a chief source of joy in heaven; for there “we shall know even as we are known.”

Thus does the Bible lay open every avenue to intelligence, making it our duty and our glory to pursue it. While it sanctifies the heart from sin, and conforms the soul to the image of God in puri. ty and holiness, it enlarges and elevates the powers of the understanding; so that be it the artist, the poet, the historian, the philosopher, the statesman, whatever the man may be, or may pursue as an achievement of taste, genius, or judgment; we hold that the quickening influence of divine revelation on his intellectual powers carries him forward to an excellence which he never could have reached without it. The man himself may not be fully conscious of this; neither is he conscious of how a healthy atmosphere tends to infuse the bloom of health into his bodily frame, or of how the rays of the sun are acting on the air he breathes to render it healthful as an element of life. Indeed, for many of the blessings most essential to our physical, intellectual or moral welfare, we are dependant on

causes of which we have little consciousness at the

time. And among them do we place the influence of revealed truth in developing and invigorating the intellectual faculties of nien and communities

of men.

This, as you see, makes Letters and Science indebted to the Bible in a way not generally acknowledged. But we do not advance it as a mere theory. For proof, we go to facts; facts so plainly written on the pages of history that “he who runs

may read.

Here at the outset of the argument, we are reminded of the eminence in letters attained by Greece and Rome, in their palmy days, though under the darkness of Paganism. And most willingly do we admit whatever can be justly claimed for the authors and artists of those distinguished nations. A scholar scarce deserves the name, whose heart does not warm at the recollection of the enjoyment and improvement which he has derived from drinking at the Castalian springs, which have been unsealed by the intellects of Greece and Rome, pagan though they were. But if

But if you compare the whole compass of their learning, with that of Christian nations, you will find that in this, as in many other things, “distance lends enchantment to the view." Even when Rome had reached the Augustan age, an age of dazzling prosperity and refinement, her literature was restricted within a narrow range. In philosophy, properly so called, whether mental or moral, her writers are comparatively shallow and obscure. In physics, her knowledge was so contracted and meagre as even to surprise us. In political science and the great principles which ascertain civil rights, and should regulate civil governments, she knew little, and practised still less. Liberty with her, was too much of an enchanting sound, without a definite meaning; and under the cover of its name, the most exorbitant wrongs were often both committed and vindicated.

The remark has been so often made as to render

it very familiar, that

familiar, that the branches of learning in which Rome can be said to be most conspicuous are History, Poetry and Rhetoric. But her historians are greatly wanting in that which gives its greatest value to the history of nations. They may give us a smooth, clear, beautiful narrative of com. mon events, woven together, it is true, with a rhe.

« PreviousContinue »