The King James Version --Its Influence on English and American History
THE King James version of the Bible is
only a book. What can a book do in history?
Well, whatever the reason, books have
played a large part in the movements of men,
specially of modern men.

They have markedly influenced the opinion
of men about the past. It is commonly said that
Hume's History of England, defective as it is,
has yet "by its method revolutionized the writing
of history," and that is true. Nearer our
own time, Carlyle's Life of Cromwell reversed the
judgment of history on Cromwell, gave all
readers of history a new conception of him and
his times and of the movement of which he
was the life. After the Restoration none were
so poor as to do Cromwell reverence until Carlyle's BOOK gave him anew to the world.

There are instances squarely in our own time
by which their mighty influence may be tested.
They are of books of almost ephemeral value
save for the student of history. As literature
they will be quickly forgotten; but as FORCES
they must be reckoned with. There is Uncle
Tom's Cabin. It would be absurd to say that
it brought the American Civil War, or freed
the , or saved the Union. It did none
of those great things. Yet it is not at all absurd
to name it among the potent powers in all
three. It is not to our purpose whether it is
true or not as a statement of the whole fact.
Doubtless it was not true of the general and
common circumstances of Southern slavery; but
everything in it was possible, and even frequent
enough so that it could not be questioned. It
pretended no more. But its influence was simply
tremendous. In book form it became available
in 1852, and within three years, 1855, it
was common property of English-speaking people.
No other book ever produced so extraordinary
an effect so quickly in the public mind.[1]
It held up slavery to judgment. It crystallized
the thoughts of common people. The work of
those strenuous years in the '60's could not have
been done without the result of that book. It
made history. Come nearer our own day. We
could not be long in London without feeling
the concern of the better people for conditions
in the East End. A new social impulse has
seized them. To be sure, it lacks much yet of
success; but more has been done than most
people realize. The new movement, the awakening
of that social sense, traces back to the book
of Gen. William Booth, In Darkest England
(1890). It has helped to change the life of a
large part of London.

[1] Rhodes, History of the United States, vol. i, pp.185-303.

On this side, the new concern for city conditions
dates from the book of a newspaper reporter,
Jacob A. Riis, How the Other Half Lives.
It thrust the Other Half into such prominence
that it has never been possible to forget it.
Marked advance in all American cities, in legislation and life, goes straight back to it. Name
one other book still in the field of social service, even so unpleasant, so terrible, so obnoxious a
book as Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. It started
and sustained movements which have unsettled
business and political life ever since it appeared. It made some conditions vivid, unescapable.

Do not misunderstand the argument. No
man can tell what will be said in the histories
a century from now about these lesser books.
We can never go beyond guesses as to the whole
cause of any chain of events.[1] As time passes,
incidental elements in the causes gradually sink
out of sight and a few great forces take the
whole horizon. Whatever the histories a century
from now say about the relative place of
such books as we have named, it is certain that
they have influenced the movements mightily.
The literary histories will say nothing at all
about them. They are not great literature, but
they were born of a passion of the times and
voiced and aroused it anew.

[1] MacPhail, Essays on Puritanism, p.278.

When, therefore, it is urged that the English
Bible has influenced history, it is not making an
undue claim for it. When it is further urged
that of all books in English literature it has been most influential, it has most made history, it
has most determined great movements, the
argument only claims for it the highest place
among books.

And it would not be surprising if it should
have such influence. It is the one great piece
of English literature which is universal property.
Since the day it was published it has been kept
available for everybody. No other book has
ever had its chance. English-speaking people
have always been essentially religious. They
have always had a profound regard for the terms,
the institutions, the purposes of religion. Partly
that has been maintained by the Bible; but the
Bible in its turn has been maintained by it. So
it has come about that English-speaking people,
though they have many books, are essentially
people of one Book. Wherever they are, the
Bible is. Queen Victoria has it near by when the
messenger from the Orient appears, and lays her
hand upon it to say that this is the foundation
of the prosperity of England. But the poor
housewife in the cottage, with only a crust for
food, stays her soul with it. The Puritan creeps
into hiding with the Book, while his brother sails
away to the new land with the Book. The settler
may have his Shakespeare; he will surely
have his Bible. As the long wagon-train creeps
across the plain to seek the Western shore, there
may be no other book in all the train; but the
Bible will be there. Find any settlement of
men who speak the English tongue, wherever
they make their home, and the Bible is among
them. When did any book have such a chance
to influence men? It is the one undisturbed
heritage of all who speak the English tongue. It
binds the daughter and the mother country together, and gathers into the same bond the scattered
remnants of the English-speaking race the
world around. Its language is the one speech
they all understand. Strange it would be if it
had not a profound influence upon history!

Another fact that has helped to give the Bible
its great influence is the power of the preaching
it has inspired. The periods of greatest preaching
have always been the periods of freest access
to the Bible. No one can overlook the immense
power of the sermons of history. There have
been poor, inept, banal expositors, doubtless;
but even they turned men's minds to the Bible.
Reading the Bible makes men thinkers, and so
makes preachers inevitably. Witness the Scotch.
James was raised in Scotland and believed in
the power of preaching. At one time he wanted
to settle endowments for the maintenance of
preaching under government control. But Archbishop
Whitgift convinced him that much preaching
was "an innovation and dangerous," since it
is quite impossible to control a man's mouth
once it is given a public chance. Under Charles
I. the sermon was mighty in the service of the
Puritans until it was suppressed or restricted.
Then men became lecturers and expounded the
Bible or taught religious truth in public or private. Rich men engaged private chaplains since
public meetings could not be held. Somehow
they taught the Bible still. Archbishop Laud
forbade both. Yet the leaven worked the more
for its restriction. At least one good cook I
know says that if you want your dough to rise
and the yeast to work, you must cover it. Laud
did not want it to rise, but he made the mistake
of covering it.

There has never been a book which has provoked
such incessant preaching and discussion
as has the Bible. The believers in the Koran
teach it as it is, word for word. Believers in the
Bible have never stopped with that. They
have always tried to come together and hear it
expounded. Such gatherings and such constant
pressure of the Book on groups of hearers would
inevitably give the Bible great influence. When
it is remembered that in America alone there
are each week approximately four hundred thousand
gatherings of people which have for their
avowed purpose instruction or inspiration in
religion, and that the instruction and inspiration
are professedly and openly drawn from the Bible,
that more than three hundred thousand sermons
are preached every week from it and passages
of it read in all the gatherings, it appears that the Bible had and still has such a chance to influence
life as no other book has had. President Schurman
traces a large part of our own stronger
American life to the educative power of our
Sundays. But central in the education of those
days is now, and has been from the first of our
national history, the English Bible.

The influence of the Bible comes also from
the fact that it makes its chief appeal to the
deeper elements in life. "Human history in its
real character is not an account of kings and of
wars; it is the unfolding of the moral, the political, the artistic, the social, and the spiritual
progress of the human family. The time will
yet come when the names of dynasties and of
battles shall not form the titles of its chapters.
The truths revealed in the Bible have been the
touchstone which has tried men's spirits."[1]

[1] H. B. Smith, Faith and Philosophy, p.54.

Those words go to the heart of the fact. The
influence of the English Bible on English-
speaking history for the last three hundred
years is only the influence of its fundamental
truths. It has moved with tremendous impact
on the wills of men. It has made the great
human ideals clear and definite; it has made
them beautiful and attractive; but that has not
been enough. It has reached also the springs of
action. It has given men a sense of need and
also a sense of strength, a sense of outrage and a
sense of power to correct the wrong. There it
has differed from most books. Frederick Robertson
said that he read only books with iron in
them, and, as he read, their atoms of iron entered
the blood, and it ran more red for them.
There is iron in this Book, and it has entered
the blood of the human race. Where it has
entered most freely, the red has deepened; and
nowhere has it deepened more than in our
English-speaking races. The iron of our blood
is from this King James version.

Bismarck explained the victories of the Germans
over the French by the fact that from
childhood the Germans had been trained in the
sense of duty, as the French had not been trained,
and as soldiers had learned to feel that nothing
could escape the Eye which ever watched their
course. They learned that, Bismarck said, from
the religion which they had been taught. There
is no mistaking the power of religion in rousing
and sharpening the sense of duty. Webster
spoke for the English-speaking races, and found
his phrases in the Bible, when he said that this
sense "pursues us ever. It is omnipresent like
the Deity. If we take to ourselves the wings
of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts
of the sea, duty performed or duty violated is
still with us for our happiness or our misery.
If we say the darkness shall cover us, in the
darkness as in the light our obligations are yet
with us. We cannot escape from their power or
fly from their presence." It is religion which
makes that sense of duty keen; and, whatever
religion has done among English-speaking races,
the English Bible has done, for it has been the
text-book and the final authority of those races
in the moving things of their faith.

It would be easiest in making the argument
to single out here and there the striking events
in which the Bible has figured and let them stand
for the whole. There are many such events,
and they are attractive.

We can imagine ourselves standing on the shore
at Dover in 1660, fifty years after the version
was issued, waiting with the crowd to see the
banished King return. The civil war is over,
the protectorate under Cromwell is past. Charles
II., thick-lipped, sensuous, "seeming to belong
rather to southern Europe than to Puritan England," is about to land from France, whence the
people, wearied with Puritan excesses, have called
him back. There is a great crowd, but they do
not cheer wildly. There is something serious
on hand. They mean to welcome the King; but
it is on condition. Their first act is when the
Mayor of Dover places in his hands a copy of
the English Bible, which the King declares he
loves above all things in the world. It proves
only a sorry jest; but the English people think
it is meant for truth, and they go to their homes
rejoicing. They rejoiced too soon, for this is
that utterly faithless king for whom his witty
courtier proposed an epitaph:

"Here lies our sovereign lord, the king,
Whose word no man relies on;
Who never said a foolish thing,
And never did a wise one."[1]

[1] White, in his History of England, says that Charles replied that the explanation was easy: His discourses were his own, his actions were his ministry's!

As at other times, the King was only talking
with no meaning; but the people did not know
him yet. They had made their Bible the great
test of their liberties: will a king stand by that
or will he not? If he will not, let him remember
Charles the First! And from that day no English
king, no American leader, has ever successfully
restricted English-speaking people from
free access to their great Book. It has become
a banner of their liberties. The child was wiser
than he knew when he was asked what lesson
we may learn from Charles I., and replied that
we may learn that a man should not lose his
head in times of excitement. Charles lost his
head long before he laid it on the block.

Besides the scene at Dover, we may watch
that great emigration of the Scotch-Irish from
Ulster, beginning in 1689, seventy years after
the Puritan exodus and eighty years after the
version was issued, which peopled the backwoods
of America with a choice, strong population.
They were only following the right to worship
freely, the right to their Bible without chains
on its lids or on the lips of its preachers. They
were making no protest against Romanism nor
against Anglicanism in themselves. They only
claimed the right to worship as they would.
Under William and Mary, after James II. had
fled to France, toleration became the law in
England; but when Ireland was reconquered
by William's generals, the act of toleration was
not extended to it. Baptists, Presbyterians, all
except the small Anglican Church, were put
under the ban and forbidden to worship. But
the Bible had made submission impossible, and
there came about that great exodus to the new
land which has so blessed it.

There are other signal events which might be
observed. But all the while there would be
danger of magnifying the importance of events
which seem to prove the point. The view needs
to be a more general one instead. The period
is not long -- three hundred years at the most --
though it has a background of all English history.
We have already seen how from the first
there have been determined efforts to make the
Bible common to the people; yet, of course, the
influence of our version can appear only in these
three hundred years since it was issued. That
short period has not only been interesting almost
to the point of excitement in English life, but
it covers virtually all American life. Take,
therefore, the broader view of the influence of
the English Bible on history, apart from these
striking events.

It is to be assumed at once that much of its
influence is indirect. Indeed, its chief influence
must be through men who prove to be leaders
and through that public sentiment without which
leaders are powerless. If leaders live by it and
stand or fall by its teaching, then their work is
its work. If they find a public sentiment issuing
from it which gives them power, a sentiment
which crystallizes around them when they appear,
because it is of kindred spirit with themselves,
then the power of that sentiment is the power
of the Bible. The influence of Pilgrim's Progress
or The Saint's Rest is the influence of Bunyan
and Baxter; but back of them is the Bible. In
language, in idea, in spirit, they were only making the Bible a common Book to their readers.
Their value for life and history is the Bible's
value for life and history.

The power of great souls is frequently and
easily underestimated. Scientific study has
tended to that by magnifying visible conditions
and by trying to calculate the force of
laws which are in plain sight. Buckle's theory
of civilization has influenced our times greatly.
It explains national character as the outcome of
natural conditions, and lays such stress on circumstances as left it possible for Buckle to declare
that history and biography are in different
spheres. It is still true, however, that most
history turns on biography. Great souls have
been the chief factors in great movements.
Whether the movement could have occurred
without them will never be possible to decide,
if it should be disputed. In a chemical laboratory
the essential factors of any phenomenon
can be determined by the process of elimination.
All the elements which preceded it except one
can be introduced; if the result is the same as
in its presence, manifestly it is not essential.
So the experiment can go on until the result becomes different, when it is evident that the last
omitted element is an essential one. But no
such process is possible in great historical movements. The only course open to us is to consider
carefully the elements which do appear.

Take three great movements which are easiest
to follow in these three centuries. Whether the
spiritual independence of England would have
been secured without the Quakers may be debated;
but this fact can hardly be debated:
certainly it was not so secured; whether or not
the Quakers could have been without George
Fox, certainly they did not occur without him.
Take the second: whether or not some other
movement could have done what Puritanism
did is hardly a question for history; Puritanism
actually did the work for England and America
which gave both their strongest qualities. There
is no testing the period to see whether Puritanism
could be left out. There it stands as a
powerful factor, and no analysis of the history
can possibly omit it. Or the third: it is not a
question for a historian whether English history
could have been the same without Methodism
and whether Methodism could have been at all
without the Wesleys; certainly nothing took its
place, nor did any one else stand at the head of
the movement.

Here are these three great movements, not
to seek others. All of them have had tremendous
influence in the religious and political history
of both the nations where they have moved
most freely. Each of them is a direct and
undisputed result of the influence of the Bible.
Much has already been said of the Puritans in
England, and there will be occasion to see what
was their influence in America. But think for
a moment of the Quakers. James Freeman
Clark calls them the English mystics; certainly
they were more than that.[1] George Fox had
little learning but the Bible; that he knew well.
He first came to himself out in the fields alone
with the Bible. He was not stirred to the origin
of the movement nor to his greatest activity by
experiences he had in public places. He came
to those public places profoundly affected by his
familiarity with the English Bible. He came at
a time when his protest was needed, a protest
against formalism, against mere outward conformity. A thousand years before, Mohammedanism
had really saved the Christian faith by
its protest, violent and merciless, against its
errors, challenging it to purity in faith and life. Now Fox and the Quakers saved church life by
protest against church life. The Bible was still
the law, but not the Bible which you read for
me, but that which you read for you and I for
me, each of us guided by an inner light. The
Quaker movement was a distinct protest against
church formalism in the interests of freedom of
the Bible.

[1] David Gregg, The Quakers in America.

That Quaker influence was far stronger in
America than it ever proved to be in England.
George Fox himself visited the colonies and extended its influence. Three great effects are
easily traceable. The very presence of the
Quakers in the New England colonies, notably
in Massachusetts, and the persecutions which
they endured, did more to purify the Puritans
than any other one influence. One is only loyal
to the Puritan character and teaching in declaring
that in the manner of the Puritans toward
the Quakers they were wrong; they were wrong
because they were untrue to their own belief,
untrue to their own Bibles, and when the more
thoughtful among them found that they were
taking the attitude toward the Quakers which
they had resented toward themselves, remembering
that the Quakers were drawing their
teaching from the same Bible as themselves,
they were naturally checked. And, while the
Quakers in New England suffered greatly, their
suffering proved the purification of the Puritans.
It accented and so it removed the narrowness of
Puritan practice. Further, the Quaker movement
gave to American history William Penn
and the whole constitution of Pennsylvania. It
was there that a state first lived by the principle which William Penn pronounced: "Any government
is free where the people are a party to the
laws enacted." So it came about that Independence
Hall is on Quaker soil. The Declaration
of Independence appeared there, and not
on Puritan soil. It may be there was more
freedom of thought in Pennsylvania. It may
be explained on purely geographical ground,
Philadelphia being the most convenient center
for the colonies. But it remains significant
that not on Cavalier soil in Virginia, not on
Dutch soil in New York, not on Puritan soil in
Boston, but on Quaker soil in Philadelphia the
movement for national independence crystallized
around a general principle that "any
government is free where the people are a party
to the laws enacted," but that no government is
free whose people have not a voice. That is not
minimizing the power of Puritanism, nor forgetting
Fanueil Hall and the Tea Party. It only
accents what should be familiar: that Puritanism
drew into itself more of the fighting element
of Scripture, while the Quaker movement drew
into itself more of the uniting, pacifying element
of Scripture. The third effect of the Quaker
movement is John Greenleaf Whittier, with his
gentle but never weak demand that national
freedom should not mean independence of other
people alone, but the independence of all people
within the nation. So that while the Quaker
spirit helped the colonies to break loose from
foreign control and become a nation, it helped
the nation in turn to break loose from internal
shackles. The nation stood free within itself
as well as free from others. Yet the Quaker
movement -- and this is the argument -- is itself
the result of the English Bible, and the Quaker
influence is the influence of the English Bible
on history.

There is not need for extended word about the
great Wesleyan movement in the midst of this
period, which has so profoundly affected both
English and American history. It has not
worked out into such visible political forms.
But any movement that makes for larger spiritual
life makes for the strengthening of the entire
life of the nation. The mere figures of the early
Wesleyan movement are almost appalling. Here
was a man, John Wesley, an Oxford scholar,
who spent nearly fifty years traveling up and
down and back and forth through England on
horseback, covering more than two hundred and
fifty thousand miles, preaching everywhere more
than forty thousand times, writing, translating,
editing two hundred works. When death ended
his busy life there were in his newly formed
brotherhood one hundred and thirty-five
thousand members, with five hundred and fifty
itinerants who were following his example with
incessant preaching and Bible exposition. It
was the old Wiclif-Lollard movement over again.
And here was the other Wesley, Charles, teaching
England to sing again, teaching the old
truths of the Bible in rhyme to many who could
not read, so that they became familiar, writing
on horseback, in stage-coaches, everywhere,
writing with one passion, to help England back
to the Bible and its truth. Such activity could
not leave the nation unmoved; all its religious
life felt it, and its political life from serf to king was deeply affected by it. It is a common saying
that the Wesleyan movement saved English
liberty from European entanglement. Yet the
Wesleyan movement issued from the Bible and
led England back to the Bible.

But apart from these wide movements and
the great souls who led them, there is time for
thought of one typical character on each side
of the sea who did not so much make a movement
as he proved the point around which a
great fluid idea crystallized into strength. Across the sea the character shall be that man whom
Carlyle gave back to us out of obloquy and
misunderstanding, Oliver Cromwell. Choosing him,
we pass other names which crowd into memory,
names of men who have served the need of England
well-Wilberforce, John Howard, Shaftesbury, Gladstone -- who drew their strength from
this Book. Yet we choose Cromwell now for
argument. On this side it must be that best
known, most beloved, most typical of all Americans, Abraham Lincoln.

An English historian has said that the most
influential, the most unescapable years in English
history are those of the Protectorate. That
is a strong saying. They were brief years.
There were many factors in them. Oliver Cromwell
was only one, but he was chief of all. He
was not chief in the councils which resulted in
the beheading of Charles I. on that 30th of
January, 1649, though he took part in them.
Increasingly in the movements which led to
that event and which followed it he was growing
into prominence. After Marston Moor,
Prince Rupert named him Ironsides, and his
regiment of picked men, picked for their spirit,
went always into battle singing psalms, "and
were never beaten." As he rode out to the field
at Naseby (1645) he knew he faced the flower
of the loyalist army, while with him were only
untrained men; yet he smiled, as he said afterward, in the "assurance that God would, by
things that are not, bring to naught things that
are." Then he adds, "God did it." Never
did he raise his flag but in the interests of the
liberty of the people, and back of every movement
of his army there was his confidence in the
Bible, which was his mainstay. They offered
him the throne; he would not have it. He dissolved
the Parliament which had dragged on
until the patience of the people was exhausted.
He called another to serve their need. The
evening before it met he spent in meditation on
the One hundred and third Psalm. The evening
before the second Parliament of his Protectorate
he brooded on the Eighty-fifth Psalm, and
opened the Parliament next day with an exposition
of it. The man was saturated with Scripture.
Yes, the times were rude. It was an Old
Testament age, and in right Old Testament
spirit did Cromwell work. And it seemed that
his work failed. There was no one to succeed
him, and soon after his death came the Restoration
and the return of Charles II., of which we
have already spoken, in which occurred that
hint of the real sentiment of the English people
which a wise man had better have taken.
Yet, recall what actually happened. Misunderstanding the spirit of the English people, which
Cromwell had helped to form, but which in
turn had made Cromwell possible, the servile
courtiers of the false king unearthed the Protector's body, three years buried, hanged it on
a gallows in Tyburn for a day, beheaded it, and
threw the trunk into a pit. His head they
mockingly set on a pinnacle of the Parliament
Hall, whence for some weeks it looked over the
city which he had served. Then, during a
great storm, it came clattering down, only a poor
dried skull, and disappeared no one knows where.
But when you stand opposite the great Parliament
buildings in London to-day, the most
beautiful buildings for their purpose in the world, the buildings where the liberties of the English
express themselves year after year, whose is the
one statue that finds place within the inclosure,
near the spot where that poor skull came rattling
down? Not Charles II. -- you shall look in
vain for him. Not George Monk, who brought
back the King -- you shall not find him there.
The one statue which England has cared to plant
beside its Parliament buildings is that of Oliver
Cromwell, its Lord Protector. There he stands,
warning kings in the interests of liberty. John
Morley makes no ideal of him. He thinks he
rather closed the medieval period than opened
the modern period; but he will not have Cromwell
compared to Frederick the Great, who
spoke with a sneer of mankind. Cromwell "belonged
to the rarer and nobler type of governing
men, who see the golden side, who count faith,
piety, hope among the counsels of practical
wisdom, and who for political power must ever
seek a moral base." That is a rare and noble
type of men, whether they govern or not. But
no man of that type governs without red blood
in his veins; and the iron that made this man's
blood run red came from the English Bible.

It is a far cry from Oliver Cromwell to Abraham
Lincoln -- far in years, far in deeds, far in
methods, but not far in spirit. Great men are
kindred, generations over. We pass from the
Old Testament into the New when we pass from
Cromwell to Lincoln; but we still feel the spirit
of liberty. From the days of the Puritans, the
Quakers and the Dutch, history had been preparing
for this time. Benjamin Franklin had
done his great work for human liberty; he had
summed up his hope for the nation in his memorable
address in 1787, when he stood eighty-
one years old, before the convention assembled to
frame a constitution for the new government. He
reminded them that at the beginning of the contest
with the British they had had daily prayers
in that room in Philadelphia for the Divine protection, and said: "I have lived for a long time,
and the longer I live the more convincing proof
I see of this truth, that God governs in the
affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall
to the ground without His notice, is it probable
that an empire can rise without His aid? We
have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings,
that 'Except the Lord build the house, they labor
in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this, and
I also believe that without His concurring aid
we shall proceed in this political building no
better than the builders of Babel. I therefore
beg leave to move that, henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing
on our deliberation be held in this assembly
every morning before we proceed to business,
and that one or more of the clergy of this city
be requested to officiate in that service."

George Washington sounded a familiar note
in his farewell address: "Of all the dispositions
and habits which lead to political prosperity,
religion and morality are indispensable supports.
A volume could not trace all their connection
with private and public felicity. Let us with
caution indulge the supposition that morality
can be maintained without religion. Whatever
may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and
experience both forbid us to expect that national
morality can prevail in exclusion of religious
principles." Thomas Jefferson, of whom it is
sometimes said that he was indifferent to religion, had yet done his great work under inspiration,
which he himself acknowledges in his
inaugural address, when he speaks of the nation
as "enlightened by a benign religion, professed
indeed, and practised in various forms, yet all
of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance,
gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging
and adoring an overruling Providence, which
by all its dispensation proves that it results in
the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter." Greater than Jefferson had
appeared John Marshall, greatest of our Chief
Justices, like in spirit to that John Marshall
Harlan, whose death marked the year which
has just closed, of whom his colleagues said that
he went to his rest each night with one hand on
the Bible and the other on the Constitution of
the United States, a description which could
almost be transferred to his great predecessor
in that court. Moreover, when Lincoln came,
Joseph Story, the greatest teacher of law which
our country had produced, had only just died
from his place on the Supreme Bench, In his
Phi Beta Kappa address at Harvard (1826), in
a brilliant and masterful analysis of "The
Characteristics of the Age," he had paid tribute after tribute to the power of religion and the Bible.
He had declared his belief that the religion of
the Bible had "established itself in the hearts
of men by all which genius could bring to illumine
or eloquence to grace its sublime truths." Of
the same period with Lincoln was also Webster,
who was called the "concordance of the House."
Many of his stately periods and great ideas came
from the Bible. Indeed, there is no oratory of
our history, which has survived the waste of the
years, which does not feel and show the power
of the Scriptures. The English Bible has given
our finest eloquence its ideas, its ideals, its
illustrations, its phrases.

The line is unbroken. And it leads to this tall
figure, crowned with a noble head, his face the
saddest in American history, who knew Gethsemane
in all its paths. The heart of the American
people has always been touched by his early
years of abject poverty. But there were
compensations. He had few books, and they entered
his blood and fiber. In his earliest formative
years there were six books which he read and
re-read. Nicolay and Hay name the Bible first
in the list, with Pilgrim's Progress as the fourth. Mr. Morse calls it a small library, but nourishing, and says that Lincoln absorbed into his own
nature all the strong juice of the books.[1] How
much he drew from the pages of the Holy Book
let any reader of his speeches say. Quotation,
reference, illustration crowd each other. The
phrases are familiar. The man is full of the
Book. And what the man does is part of the
work of the Book.

[1] American Statesman Series, Abraham Lincoln, i, 12, 13.

One of his biographers says that there is
nothing in the life or work of Lincoln which cannot be explained without reference to any supernatural
influence or power. That depends on
what is meant by supernatural. There were no
miracles, no astounding visions nor experiences.
But there ran into Lincoln's life from his young
manhood onward this steady and strong current
of ideas and ideals from the Bible. In his
second inaugural address he worded the thought
that was the deepest horror of the Civil War --
that on both sides of the strife men were reading
the same Bible, praying to the same God, and invoking His aid against each other! In that very
brief inaugural Mr. Lincoln quotes in full three
Bible verses, and makes reference to two others,
and the whole address lasted barely four minutes.
There could be no mistaking the solemn importance
of the fact to which he referred in the
inaugural, the presence on the other side of men
who held their Bibles high in regard. "Stonewall"
Jackson was devout beyond most men.
The two books always at his hand were his
Bible and the Manual of the Rules of War.
Robert E. Lee was a cultured, Christian gentleman,
as were many others with him, while
throughout the South were multitudes who
loved and reverenced the Bible as fully as could
any in the North. As we look back over half a
century, this comes out plainly: that so far as
the American civil war was a strife about union
pure and simple, having one nation or two here
in our part of the continent, it was matter of
judgment, not of religion. There grew around
that question certain others of national honor and
obligation, which were not so clear then as now.
But men on opposite sides of the question might
read the same Bible without finding authoritative
word about it. In so far, however, as the war
had at its heart the matter of human slavery,
it was possible for men to differ only when one
side read the letter of the Bible while the other
read its manifest spirit. Written in times when
slavery was counted matter of course, its letter
dealt with slavery as a fact. It could be read as
though it approved slavery. But long before
this day men had found its true spirit. England
had abolished slavery (1808) under the insistence
that it was foreign to all right understanding
of God's Word. Lincoln knew its letter
well; he cared for its spirit more, and he found
his strength not in the familiar saying that God
was on his side, but in the more forceful one
that he believed himself to be on God's side.
So he became a point around which the great
fluid idea crystallized into strength -- a point
made and sustained by the influence of the Bible,
which he knew only in the King James version.

We have spoken of some wide movements and
of men around whom they crystallized, finding
in them the influence of the Bible. It will be
well to note two outstanding traits of the Bible
which in English or any other tongue would
inevitably tend to strong and favorable influence
on the history of men. Those two traits are,
first, its essential democracy, and, secondly, its
persistent moral appeal.

Here must be recalled that century before
the King James version, when by slow filtration
the fundamental ideas of the Bible were entering
English life. Surely it is beyond words that
the Bible made Puritanism, though it was in
strong swing when James came to the throne.
Now John Richard Green is well within the fact
when he says that "Puritanism may fairly claim
to be the first political system which recognized
the grandeur of the people as a whole."[1] It, was
the magnifying of the people as a whole over
against some people as having peculiar rights
which marked Puritanism, and which is democracy.
Shakespeare knew nothing of it, and had
no influence on the movement for larger democracy.
After we have said our strong word of
Shakespeare's powerful influence upon literature
it yet must be said that it is difficult to lay
finger on one single historical movement except
the literary one which Shakespeare even remotely
influenced. The Bible, meanwhile, was absolutely
creating this movement. Under its influence
"the meanest peasant felt himself ennobled
as the child of God, the proudest noble
recognized a spiritual equality with the meanest
saint." That was the inevitable result of a
fresh reading of the Bible in every home. It assured each man that he is a son of God, equal in
that sonship with all other men. It assured
him no man has right to lord it over others,
as though his relation to God were peculiar.
The Bible constantly impresses men that this
relation to God is the essential one. Everything
else is incidental. Granted now a people freshly
under the influence of that teaching, you have
a large explanation of the movement which followed
the issuance of this version.

[1] Short History of the English People, chap. vii, sec. vii.

James opened his first parliament (1604) with
a speech claiming divine right, a doctrine which
had really been raised to meet the claim of the
right of the pope to depose kings. James argued
that the state of monarchy is the supremest
thing on earth, for kings are not only God's
lieutenants on earth and set upon God's throne,
but even by God Himself are called gods. (He
never found that in the Genevan version or its
notes!) As to dispute what God may do is
blasphemy, so it is sedition in subjects to dispute what the king may do in the height of his
power. "I will not be content that my power
be disputed on." The House of Commons sat by
his grace and not of any right.

Set that idea of James over against the idea
which the Bible was constantly developing in
the mind of the people, and you see why Trevelyan
says that the Bible brought in democracy,
and why he thinks, as we have already seen,
that the greatest contribution England has made
to government is its treatment of the Stuarts,
when it transferred sovereignty from the king
to Parliament. Among the men who listened
to that kind of teaching were Eliot, Hampden,
Pym, all Puritans under the spell of the Bible.
But the strife grew larger than a merely Puritan
one. The people themselves were strongly feeling
their rights. "To the devout Englishman,
much as he might love his prayer-book and hate
the dissenters, the core of religion was the life
of family prayer and Bible study, which the
Puritans had for a hundred years struggled not
in vain to make the custom of the land." It was
this spirit which James met.

We have already thought sufficiently of the
events which actually followed. The final rupture
of Charles I. with parliamentary institutions
was due to the religious situation. There were
many Bible-reading families, learning their own
rights, while kings and favorites were plotting
war. Laud and the bishops forbade non-conforming
gatherings, but they could not prevent
a man's gathering his household about him while
he read the great stories of the Bible, in which
no king ruled when he had ceased to advance
his kingdom, in which each man was shut up
to God in the most vital things of his life. The
discussion of the time grew keen about predestination and free-will. One meant that only
God had power; the other meant that men, and
if men, then specially kings, might control other
men if only they could. Not fully, but vaguely,
the crowd understood. Very fully, and not
vaguely, the leaders understood. Predestination
and Parliament became a cry. That is,
control lifted out of the hands of the free-will
of some monarch into the hands of a sovereign
God to whom every man had the same access
that any other man had. Laud decreed that all
such discussion should cease. He revived an
old decree that no book could be printed without
consent of an archbishop or the Bishop of
London. So the books became secret and more
virulent each year. The civil war (1642-46)
between Charles and Parliament was a war of
ideas. It is sometimes called a war of religion,
not quite fairly. It was due to the religious
situation, but actually it was for the liberties
of the people against the power of the king. And
that question rooted far down in another regarding
the rights of men to be free in their
religious life. Charles struck his coin at Oxford
with the Latin inscription: "The Protestant religion; the laws of England; the liberties of
Parliament." But he struck it too late. He
had been trifling with the freedom of the people,
and they had learned from their fireside Bibles
and from their pulpits that no man may command
another in his relation to God. It was long
after that Burns described "The Cottar's Saturday
Night"; but he was only describing a condition
which was already in vogue, and which was
having tremendous influence in England as well
as in Scotland:

"The cheerfu' supper done, wi' serious face,
They, round the ingle, form a circle wide;
The sire turns o'er, wi' patriarchal grace,
The big ha' Bible, ance his father's pride:
His bonnet rev'rently is laid aside,
His lyart haffets wearing thin an' bare;
Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,
He wales a portion with judicious care,
And 'Let us worship God!' he says, with solemn air."

Under such guidance as this the people of
England, Puritans and others, relaxed the power
of the Stuarts and became a democracy. For
democracy is not a form of government. It can
exist under monarchy, provided the monarchy
is a convenience of the will of the people, as it
is in England. It can exist under institutions
like our own, provided they also are held as a
convenience of the people. This was no rebellion
against some form of monarchy. It was simply
a claim of every man to have his rights before
God. Under the Parliament of eighteen years
duration, the Independensts, Presbyterians, and
all other non-conforming bodies suffered as
heavily as under James and Charles, yet they did
not flee the land. Their battle was really won.
They believed the time would come when they
as part of "the people" who now governed
should assert themselves. If they were persecuted,
it was under a government where yet
they might hope for their rights. Fleeing from
England in 1620 was heroism; fleeing in 1640
would have been cowardly. It is impossible to
calculate what was the revelation to the readers
of the English Bible of their rights.

Let Trevelyan tell the story: "While other
literary movements, however noble in quality,
affect only a few, the study of the Bible was
becoming the national education. Recommended
by the king, translated by the Bishops, yet in
chief request with the Puritans, without the
rivalry of books and newspapers, the Bible told
to the unscholarly the story of another age and
race, not in bald generalization and doctrinal
harangue, but with such wealth of simple narrative
and lyrical force that each man recognized
his own dim strivings after a new spirit, written
clear in words two thousand years old. A deep
and splendid effect was wrought by the monopoly
of this Book as the sole reading of common
households, in an age when men's minds were
instinct with natural poetry and open to receive
the light of imagination. A new religion arose,
of which the mythus was the Bible stories and
the pervading spirit the direct relations of man
with God, exemplified in the human life. And
while imagination was kindled, the intellect was
freed by this private study of the Bible. For its
private study involved its private interpretation.
Each reader, even if a Churchman, became in
some sort a church to himself. Hence the hundred
sects and thousand doctrines that astonished
foreigners and opened England's strange path
to intellectual liberty. The Bible cultivated
here, more than in any other land, the growth
of intellectual thought and practice."[1]

[1] England under the Stuarts.

All that has seemed to refer only to England,
but the same essential democracy of the Bible
came to America and founded the new nation.
It was a handful of Puritans turned Pilgrims
who set out in the Mayflower to give their Bible
ideas free field. In a dozen years (1628-40),
under Laud's persecution, twenty thousand Englishmen fled to join those Pilgrims. And how
much turned on that! Suppose it had not happened.
Then the French of the North and the
cavaliers of Virginia, with the Spanish of the
South, would have had only the Dutch between
them. And of the four, only the Dutch had
free access to the Bible. The new land would
not have been English. It is an English writer
who says that North America is now preparing
the future of the world, and English speech is
the mold in which the folk of all the world are
being poured for their final shaping.[1] It is the
democracy of the Bible which is the fundamental
democracy of America, in which every man has
it accented to him that he is so much a child
of God that his rights are inalienable. They
cover life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And though we have held that principle
of democracy inconsistently at times, and have
paid a terrible price for our inconsistency in the
past, and may pay it in the future again, it is
still true that the fundamental democracy of our
American life is only that essential democracy
of the Bible, where every man is made the equal
of his fellow by being lifted into the same relation with Almighty God.

[1] Trevelyan, England under the Stuarts, p.174.

The Bible makes its moral appeal on the same
basis. If a man is a child of God, then he is
shut up to duties which cannot be avoided.
Some one else may tell a man his duty in a true
monarchy. In a democracy each man stands
alone at the most solemn point of his duty.
There is no safe democracry where men refuse
to stand alone there. In Jefferson's great speech,
replying to the forebodings of Patrick Henry, he
insisted that if men were not competent to govern
themselves they were not competent to
govern other people. The first duty of any man
is to take his independent place before God.
Democracy is the social privilege that grows out
of the meeting of these personal obligations.

Several facts strengthen this persistent moral
appeal. For one thing, the Book is absolutely
fair to humanity. It leaves out no line or
wrinkle; but it adds none. The men with whom
it deals are typical men. The facts it presents
are typical facts. There are books which flatter
men, make them out all good, prattle on about
the essential goodness of humanity, while men
who know themselves (and these are the only
ones who do things) know that the story is not
true. On the other hand, there are books which
are depressing. Their pigments are all black.
They move from the dignity of Schopenhauer's
pessimism to the bedlam of Nietzsche's contempt
for life and goodness. But here, also, the sane
common sense of humanity comes to the rescue.
The picture is not true if it is all white or all
black. The Bible is absolutely fair to humanity.
It moves within the circle of man's experience;
and, while it deals with men, it results in a treatment of man.

That is how it comes about that the Bible inspires
men, and puts them at their best. No
moral appeal can be successful if it fails to reach the better part of a man, and lays hold on him
there. Just that it did for the English people.
"No greater moral change ever passed over a
nation than passed over England during the
years that parted the middle of the reign of
Elizabeth from the meeting of the Long Parliament.
England became the people of a Book,
and that Book was the Bible."[1]

[1] Green, Short History of the English People.

Add to that personal appeal and that absolute
fairness to humanity the constant challenge
of the Bible to the nobler elements of humanity.
It never trifles. It is in deadly earnest. And
it makes earnest men. Probably we cannot illustrate that earnestness more clearly than by
a study of one element in Puritan history, which
is confused in many minds. It is the matter
of the three great antagonisms of Puritanism in
England and America. They can never be understood
by moral triflers. They may not be approved
by all the morally serious, but they will
be understood by them. What are those three
marked antagonisms? The antagonism to the
stage, to popular frivolity, and to the pleasure

1. The early English stage had the approval
of virtually all the people. There were few
voices raised against the dramas of Shakespeare.
But the cleavage between the Puritans and the
stage grew greater as the years went on. There
were riotous excesses. The later comedy after
Shakespeare was incredibly gross. The tragedies
were shallow, they turned not on grave scenes
of conscience, but on common and cheap intrigues
of incest and murder. In the mean time,
"the hatred of the Puritans for the stage was
only the honest hatred of God-fearing men
against the foulest depravity presented in poetic
and dramatic forms." The Bible was laying
hold on the imagination of the people, making
them serious, thoughtful, preparing them for
the struggle for liberty which was soon to come.
The plays of the time seemed too trifling or else
too foul. The Puritans and the English people
of the day were willing to be amused, if the stage
would amuse them. They were willing to be
taught, if the stage would teach them. But
they were not willing to be amused by vice and
foulness, and they were not willing to be taught
by lecherous actors who parroted beautiful sentiments of virtue on the stage and lived filthy
lives of incest and shame off the stage. Life had
to be whole to the Puritan, as indeed it has to
be to other thoughtful men. And the Bible
taught him that. His concern was for the higher
elements of life; his appeal was to the worthier
values in men. The concern of the stage of his
day was for the more volatile elements in men.
The test of a successful play was whether the
crowds, any crowds, came to it. And as always
happens when a man wants to catch the interest
of a crowd, the stage catered to its lowest interests. You can hardly read the story of the
times without feeling that the Puritan made
no mistake in his day. He could not have been
the thoughtful man who would stand strong in
the struggle for liberty on that side of the sea
and the struggle for life on this side of the sea
without opposing trifling and vice.

2. The antagonism of the early Puritan to
popular frivolity needs to have the times around
it to be understood. No great movement carries
everybody with it, and while it is still struggling the majority will be on the opposing side. While
the real leadership of England was passing into
the stronger and more serious hands the artificial
excesses of life grew strong on the people.
"Fortunes were being sunk and estates mortgaged
in order that men should wear jewels and
dress in colored silks."[1] In the pressure of
grave national needs men persisted in frivolity.
The two reigning vices were drunkenness and
swearing. In their cups men were guilty of
the grossest indecencies. Even their otherwise
harmless sports were endangered. The popular
notion of the May-pole dances misses the real
point of the Puritan opposition to it in Old and
New England. It was not an innocent, jovial
out-door event. Once it may have been that.
Very often it was only part of a day which
brought immorality and vice in its train. It was
part of a rural paganism. Some of the customs
involved such grave perils, with their seclusion
of young people from early dawn in the forests,
as to make it impossible to approve it. Over
against all these things the Puritans set themselves. Sometimes they carried this solemnity
to an absurd length, justifying it by Scripture
verses misapplied. Against the affected elegancies
of speech they set the plain yea, yea
and nay, nay of Scripture. In their clothing,
their homes, their churches, they, and in even
more marked degree, the Quakers, registered
their solemn protest against the frivolity of the
times. If they went too far, it is certain their
protest was needed. Macaulay's epigram is
familiar, that the Puritan "hated bear-baiting,
not because it gave pain to the bear, but because
it gave pleasure to the spectators." In so far
as that is true, it is to the credit of the Puritan; for the bear can stand the pain of being baited
far better than human nature can stand the
coarsening effects of baiting him, and it is nobler to oppose such sport on human grounds than on
animal grounds. But, of course, the epigram is
Macaulay's, and must be read with qualification.
The fact is, and he says it often enough without
epigrams, that the times had become trifling
except as this grave, thoughtful group influenced

[1] Trevelyan, England under the Stuarts, p.66.

3. The attitude of the Puritans toward the
Sabbath came from their serious thought of the
Bible. Puritanism gave England the Sabbath
again and planted it in America as an institution.
Of course, these men learned all that they knew
of it from the Bible. From that day, in spite
of much change in thought of it, English-
speaking people have never been wilful abusers
of the Sabbath. But the condition in that day
was very different. Most of the games were on
the day set apart as the Sabbath. There were
bull-baiting, bear-baiting, and football on Sunday. Calvin himself, though not in England,
bowled on Sunday, and poor Knox attended
festivities then, saying grimly that what little
is right on week-days is not wrong on Sundays.
After the service on Sunday morning the people
thronged to the village green, where ale flowed
freely and games were played until the evening
dance was called. It was a work-day. Elizabeth
issued a special injunction that people work
after service on Sundays and holidays if they
wished to do so. Employers were sustained in
their demand for Sunday work.

There are always people in every time who
count that the ideal Sabbath. The Puritans
found it when they appeared. The English
Reformation found it when it came. And the
Bible found it when at last it came out of
obscurity and laid hold on national conditions.
Whatever is to be said of other races, every
period of English-speaking history assures us
that our moral power increases or weakens with
the rise or fall of Sabbath reverence. The
Puritans saw that. They saw, as many other
thoughtful people saw, that the steady, repeated
observance of the Sabbath gave certain
national influences a chance to work; reminded
the nation of certain great underlying and undying
principles; in short, brought God into
human thought. The Sunday of pleasure or
work could never accomplish that. Both as religionists and as patriots, as lovers of God and
lovers of men, they opposed the pleasure-Sunday
and held for the Sabbath.

But that comes around again to the saying
that the persistent moral appeal of the Bible
gives it inevitable influence on history. It centers thought on moral issues. It challenges men
to moral combats.

Such a force persistently working in men's
minds is irresistible. It cannot be opposed; it
can only fail by being neglected. And this is
the force which has been steadily at work everywhere in English-speaking history since the
King James version came to be.

lecture iv the influence of
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