|Vol. 12 No. 10 October 2010||
Donald R. Fox
Maybe some of us older folks have seen the dismantling of America’s Christian heritage to a sharper degree than younger people. Some of us older Americans have observed over the years a great change in our citizens and government concerning our Christian heritage. Some of our younger folks have little or no knowledge of the founding of the new world – America – and the influence that Christianity had on this new land. To deny the history of our Christian heritage is to deny verifiable facts.
I have open and before me an old book entitled, The World’s Book of Knowledge and Universal Education, published by Columbia Publishing House, Chicago, Illinois. Further information on this volume states, “Entered According to Act of Congress, in the year 1901 by D.Z. Howell in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington, D.C., U.S.A.” On pages 179-183 there is a chapter on “International Law” with subject matter “Origin of International Law – Influence of Christianity – International Conventions and What they Accomplished – Mediation and Arbitration.” Sprinkled throughout this chapter, it is obvious that a general practice of Christian ethics/morals played a great role in the civilization of peoples and their governments.
I would like to share with you from the chapter on “International Law” a few excerpts. “When nations first began to evolve from wandering bands of nomadic savages the main idea with each king was to subdue his neighbor. Thus warfare and barbarism were rampant for centuries. With the growth of civilization, however, nations, as well as individuals, began to see that it would be better to get along in peace and harmony with each other.” “Countries found that they could get along with each other if they agreed to grant each other certain privileges. In this way as well as by conquest the great Roman Empire was built up. Then Christianity stepped in as a still greater factor, and people hesitated to subdue or butcher each other because of the simple teachings of the Man of Galilee.” “…it can easily be seen that when Christianity was adopted by all the European countries anything that was particularly abhorrent to its teachings would be warred against in common.” “Civilization, however, dictates that countries shall be charitable and offer their good services to ameliorate the troubles.”
Christianity enhances any nation and its government. History bears witness that the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Man of Galilee, brings forth peace and charitable activities. Why not comply with civilized and charitable teachings of our Lord?
“The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath” (Proverbs 11:23). “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12). “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31). “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
In the late 1600’s and early 1700’s, Antonio Stradivari produced the finest musical instruments ever created. In his lifetime, he is known to have produced 1,101 instruments. These included guitars, cellos, violas and at least one harp. His crowning achievements, however, were his violins. They are known for their clarity of tone and ability to resonate so perfectly. His violins are what make his name synonymous with quality and fine craftsmanship. To be called the “Stradavari” of any field is to be designated as the finest there is.
There are approximately 650 of his instruments (called strad or strads for short) still in existence today, and almost all of them are very well accounted for. They are played by the best classical musicians including Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman. There is a large collection of his instruments at the Vienna Philharmonic and another at the Library of Congress, which holds concerts each year featuring the top students at Julliard. His instruments have their own names, such as Solomon and Lady Tennant, and they command top dollar at public and private sales. One of his violins that went up for sale in 2006, known as “The Hammer,” sold for $3,544,000 to an anonymous bidder.
There is one, however, that is prized above all others. Its value is not known, but could easily be several times that of other Strads. It occupies the same place in musical history as the Mona Lisa does in painting. Made by Stradivari in 1716, and kept by him till his death in 1737, it is a rare gem indeed. Created at the height of his “golden period,” “it has several details which set it apart from the rest.”
Because its creator seemed to be enchanted by it, it was passed down through his family until it was sold in 1776, and finally fell into the hands of a peasant named Tarisio in the 1820’s. Tarisio came from humble origins, but through a relentless pursuit, a way with words, and often through trickery, he acquired more Strads than anyone in history.
Over the years, it was passed down through many owners, often upon their death, and eventually came into the possession of the Hill brothers who wanted the violin to remain in the UK. Henry Ford offered them a blank check for the violin, but they refused and placed it in the Ashmolean museum at Oxford with the stipulation that it may never be sold and never be played. Although its provenance has been questioned, it has repeatedly been proven to be genuine, and there it sits today. It is quite possibly the greatest and most perfect instrument ever made, and is still in almost perfect condition, and yet no one will ever hear its tone or fully realize its true beauty.
When I heard this story, I thought about lessons and applications that could be made between this beautiful violin and the Bible. The Bible is undoubtedly the greatest book ever written. Although its provenance has been called into question, it has time and again proven its authorship and validity. The words contain the most beautiful message known to man, that of everlasting salvation. Yet, what we find is that many place this beautiful masterpiece on a shelf to never be read or studied.
The Bible is not meant to be a museum piece in our lives. It is meant to be used as a sword in battle (Ephesians 6:17), a comfort in times of need (1 Thessalonians 4:18), a light when darkness surrounds us (Psalm 119:105) and a guide to help us decide the moral problems in our lives (Hebrews 4:12).
The name of the violin I’ve been talking about is “The Messiah.” Just as “The Messiah” strad was owned by many and its beauty transcends time, the Bible is meant for all, and crosses all barriers. Jesus, and the hope of salvation He has provided for us, should not go unused and unheard in our lives. On the Day of Judgment, many would not take a blank check for what they have, but many will want to write one to obtain it. Much like the violin, the Bible’s true beauty can only be seen if it is used.