A South American Statesman On The Bible
( Originally Published 1902 )
DR. MAGNASCO, the Minister of Justice and Public Instructor of the Argentine Republic, received a letter from Rev. William C. Morris, asking him to furnish his opinion on the Bible as an educational force in the country. He sent to Mr. Morris, the following answer:
" When the Romans spoke indefinitely of a city as ` Urbs ' it was always understood that they meant the great city, the head of the Old World. The word represented the monopoly of thought by its grandeur.
" Thus also has it happened with the old ` Biblos.' The same antonomasia; the identical monopoly. And in truth, none like the Bible deserves the name of book. It is peerless because of its intrinsic excellence. In its pages throb the teachings of ineffable wisdom; all other books are but amplifications of this book. It is itself the sure way to the attainment of all the greatest human ideals—truth, kindness, and beauty. Its philosophy contains a purity too often forgotten ; its morality is the simplest goodness, its art the supreme beauty.
" He who has not read the book will be incapable of experiencing the great sensations of intelligence ; neither can he bear upon his soul the marks of the tracks along which men and peoples go most surely to their natural destinies.
" The worship of the Bible is not the worship of the past or of anachronical things, for it is a book which is eternally new and fresh as a perennial spring. And eternal also are its teachings ! they come to us from the remotest depths of time ; they comfort the present and illumine the future with the pure rays of everlasting light.
" The Book of books deserves today more than ever the glorious monopoly of thought. There is no book outside of this book. And those who, through I know not what strange wanderings attributed to the modifications effected by modern civilization, judge of its value merely from the standpoint of bibliophiles, manifest clearly their rashness in so doing; and it is easy to understand that they have never meditated deeply over its pages, nor brought their spirit into the presence of its crystalline founts.
" Our people must be built up with its teaching, and the book must be upon the tables of our homes, and on the desks of our schools.
" The children of ancient Rome learned to spell from the text of their fundamental law—the Twelve Tables. It was not first of all the attainment of literary progress which induced the Roman matron to proceed thus : the children drank in a spirit of truth and justice from among the asperities of that primitive text, as from the jutting crags of the rugged rock the water leaps forth with more transparent beauty.
" Our children should learn to read from the pages of the book; the fountain of eternal health ; the key to all progress."
On the receipt of this testimonial, Mr. Morris sent the following reply :
" Distinguished and much esteemed Mr. Minister : I cannot express to you my thankfulness for the very beautiful and most valuable testimony which you have so kindly sent me concerning the educational value of the Bible. It shall appear on the first page of the pamphlet which I am preparing for the press, and which will be published shortly for gratuitous distribution. I will translate it into English, and it will be published in several important papers and reviews of England, Canada, and the United States ; and it will be sure to command the attention and receive the favorable comments which it so well deserves.
" When that which you so wisely advocate comes to be an accomplished fact—when the book is the counselor of our Argentine homes, and occupies the place of honor which rightly belongs to it in the Argentine schools—we shall then have commenced to build the greatness of our Argentine nation upon the immovable rock of eternal truth.
" Kindly allow me, Mr. Minister, a moment of frank and sincere inter-course. You have been the first member of the Argentine Executive, from the date of our national independence to the present day, who has had the wisdom and the courage to propose the reading of the Holy Bible in our public schools —I refer to your message to the Honorable Congress dated June 5, 1899—and now you plead with powerful eloquence in this magnificent testimony for the Bible in the home. And this advocacy reminds me of the never-to-be-forgotten privileges of my childhood. I received my first lessons in divine truth from the lips of my dear father and mother—who years ago finished their earthly pilgrimage—and the reading of a passage from the Bible, a short explanation of the paragraph read, and a prayer—that is to say, family worship—marked the beginning and the close of each day. Such teachings and examples can never be effaced from the spirit of the child.
" If I might be permitted to do so, I would beseech you, in the name of the sincere affection which we profess for the Argentine people, to urge for-ward this propaganda in favor of the Bible which you have initiated. This cause, of which you are the leader and defender, will triumph. Its triumph is inevitable ; and on this triumph depends the complete freedom, the true progress, the abiding strength, and the lasting greatness of this great nation.
" Again I thank you most heartily for this beautiful testimony, and I will entertain the hope that during long years your gifted mind may be consecrated to the work of proclaiming these profound truths, for the saving and the ennobling of this young nation.
" I salute Your Excellency most respectfully, and praying that God may preserve you for many years, I have the honor to subscribe myself your obedient servant. WILLIAM C. MORRIS."
La Tribuna adds these comments :
" It is of the greatest importance to the Argentine people that a statesman occupying the position and enjoying the prestige which belong to Dr. Magnasco should thus have placed himself at the head of a movement fraught with such beneficent and far-reaching consequences. The Minister has met, and will meet, much opposition from those who fear the propagation of Bible truth, but he has shown already that he has the courage and the strength to stand alone and defend with decision and ability a cause to which he is committed. May he prove to be a valiant national leader in the cause of educational, moral and religious reform; for in this work he can confer the greatest possible blessing upon this country and nation."
Such a testimonial from such a source is one of the most remarkable tributes to the value of the Bible in national development and happiness, which has ever come under our eye. If such plans for State building can be carried out, the Argentine Republic bids fair to become one of the most prosperous and happy nations upon the earth.