Our Masses And The Bible
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
MANY, however, and of a much stronger and more important sort, there now are, who will not thus take on trust the story which is made the reason for putting ourselves in connexion with the Bible and learning to use its religion ; be it the story of the divine authority of the Church, as in Catholic countries, or,—as generally with us,—the story of the three supernatural persons standing on its own merits. Is what this story asserts true, they are beginning to ask ; can it be verified ?—since experience proves, they add, that whatever for man is true, man can verify. And certainly the fairy-tale of the three supernatural persons no man can verify. They find this to be so, and then they say : The Bible takes for granted this story and depends on the truth of it ; what, then, can rational people have to do with the Bible? So they get rid, to be sure, of a false ground for using the Bible, but they at the same time lose the Bible itself, and the true religion of the Bible : righteousness, and the method and secret of Jesus. And those who lose this are the masses, as they are called ; or rather they are what is most strenuous, intelligent, and alive among the masses, and what will give the signal for the rest to follow.
This is what everyone sees to constitute the special moral feature of our times : the masses are losing the Bible and its religion. At the Renascence, many cultivated wits lost it : but the great solid mass of the common people kept it, and brought the world back to it after a start had seemed to be made in quite another direction. But now it is the _people which is getting detached from the Bible. The masses can no longer be relied on to counteract what the cultivated wits are doing, and stubbornly to make clever men's extravagances and aberrations, if about the Bible they commit them, of no avail. When our philosophical Liberal friends say, that by universal suffrage, public meetings, Church-disestablishment, marrying one's deceased wife's sister, secular schools, industrial development, man can very well live ; and that if he studies the writings, say, of Mr. Herbert Spencer into the bargain, he will be perfect, he ' will have in modern and congenial language the truisms common to all systems of morality,' and the Bible is become quite old-fashioned and superfluous for him ;—when our philosophical friends now say this, the masses, far from checking them, are disposed to applaud them to the echo. Yet assuredly, of conduct, which is more than three-fourths of human life, the Bible, whatever people may thus think and say, is the great inspirer; so that from the great inspirer of more than three-fourths of human life the masses of our society seem now to be cutting themselves off. This promises, certainly, if it does not already constitute, a very unsettled condition of things. And the cause of it lies in the Bible being made to depend on a story, or set of asserted facts, which it is impossible to verify ; and which hard-headed people, therefore, treat as either an imposture, or a fairy-tale that discredits all which is found in connexion with it.