Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

or New Testament, except perhaps the Psalter or Breviary for the Divine offices or the hours of the Blessed Virgin : but having any of these books translated into the vulgar tongue, we strictly forbid.' By this decree the Church was ruled during that century. Hundreds of Latin Bibles and portions of the Bible were burned, and their owners imprisoned or put to death. Yet, in a short time after Wickliffe's manuscript Bible was put in circulation, it was so generally known that one of his contemporaries says, 'that a man could not meet two people on the road but one of them was a disciple of Wickliffe. And the reason is, this Master John Wickliffe hath translated the Gospel out of Latin into English; which Christ hath entrusted with the clergy and doctors of the Church, that they might minister it to the laity and weaker sort, according to the state of the times and the wants of men. So that by this means the Gospel is made vulgar, and laid more open to the laity and even to women who can read, than it used to be to the most learned of the clergy, and those of the best understanding.' Making all possible allowance for the exaggeration which fear and enmity would produce, we have in

was

the above statement the results of a deep and widespread excitement, produced by sundry manuscript copies of a book more than thirteen hundred years old. We incur no risk in saying that no book but the Bible ever did or could produce such results.

When Tyndale first published the New Testament in English, the dominion of the Church more thorough than at any former time, and, aroused to vigilance by the action of Luther, was more determined to keep the people in ignorance of the Scriptures. The priesthood dominated the entire realm, from the woolsack to the poorest and the smallest parish, and the Tudor king, in the unshorn majesty of his supremacy, was entirely with them in their opposition to the circulation of the Bible. There were no preachers, there was no evangelical church, nothing but the New Testament. Yet, in a few years, that New Testament brought the entire Bible, took hold on the hearts of the people of England, called forth preachers, raised a church, suppressed the priesthood, and compelled the selfwilled Henry, in spite of himself, to permit its free circulation. This it was which first of all awakened to full force our national vigour, and started us on that course of improvement in all secular things which has brought our present condition, by a process of growth which in every intervening generation has been rapid or slow as we have observed or departed from the teaching of the Gospel. Not our Queen only, but the whole nation knows, that we derive our honour, our wealth, and our strength from our Bible.

The same results follow the circulation of the Scriptures at the present day in every country into which they are carried. No report of the British and Foreign Bible Society can be read without finding records of persons in all conditions of life, and all degrees of culture, who have found the Bible alone the means of leading them into a conscious fellowship with God. And this result is not found only in some selected and specially favoured spheres of their labour, but in every country in which they circulate the Scriptures, while they become more numerous and varied as the field of operation widens.

France is a country which will repay careful study in connection with our theme generally, and this side of it in particular. When the Bible Society commenced its operations there,

opposition from the Government and priests, together with general indifference among the people, made the work toilsome and discouraging. From the first they had cheering examples of the presence of the Author and Subject of the book making it the means of a revelation of Himself to individual readers ; and as they proceeded in their work, interest was awakened, one obstacle after another fell away, until access to the whole population has been obtained. During the course of their work, a great number have been brought into the possession of the spiritual life, evangelical churches have been quickened, enlarged, multiplied. Whole villages have renounced the follies and delusions of their former life, have joined together in the study of the Scriptures and in the worship and service of the living God, and now in every city and large town of France the largest rooms that can be obtained are crowded by people eager to hear the story of the Incarnation, and life, and death, and resurrection, and reign of the Son of God. Only sixty years of obscure, partial, and unostentatious labour have been expended in producing this wonderful change.

In like manner, the preaching of the Gospel and the circulation of the Scriptures have made manifest the impotence to save and the power to pollute and degrade of the oppressive systems of Indian idolatry, and broken the youth of India from them. In China, the doctrines of Confucius, with their hoary honours and their long lists of victory, are superseded by the teaching of a Divine fellowship. And Japan, finding the incarnation of Buddha a sham, is turning to Him who is the effulgence of the Divine glory and the very image of His substance. Every citadel is crumbling, all the gates are opening, and the whole race is beginning to feel the attraction of the Elder Brother who said, If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.' More than eighteen centuries have passed since those words were uttered : everything else is dead and gone,

but they live and vitalize still. Who could have spoken words of such truth, duration, and power? Only the Son of God and the Son

of man.

« ÎnapoiContinuați »