|Volume 22 Number 2 February 2020||
T. Pierce Brown
Regrettably, I do not now seem to find time to read as widely in classical literature as I might. However, yesterday I again picked up some of Shakespeare’s writings for a few moments and was impressed again with what I had noted many years ago when I read more from great authors. Practically everyone I remember would frequently allude to some biblical story or character. A person reading their writings without a familiarity with the Bible would have found it “flat, stale and unprofitable,” as Hamlet put it.
The assumption of those great writers that their readers would be familiar with the Bible reveals a great deal about their own familiarity with it, as well as the great esteem in which they held it. A lengthy article could be filled with specific quotations from multitudes of great men of literature, art, sculpture, science and various other disciplines that show their respect or reverence for the Bible. It is at least as impressive to me to find literally thousands of allusions to some remote biblical circumstance with the awareness that their readers did not need a footnote with an explanation of the time and place of its occurrence.
One might expect to find this in the writings of Alexander Campbell, Moses E. Lard or others of the great Restoration, or even those of the Reformation movement, but to find it so widely in men of general literary fame is instructive. If there is any one thing that more readily shows the influence of the Bible and the respect in which it was held, I do not know of it.
Seldom have I found it advisable to accuse a man of lying, but if I should ever need to do so, I should like to be able to do it as superbly as did Moses Lard. He said, in reviewing Mr. Jeter’s book, Campbellism Examined, “It is to be regretted that an author whose pedigree points to an American origin should still by his speech so often betray a Cretin extraction.” Brother Lard expected his readers, largely men of religious interest, to understand his allusion to Titus 2:12 without any explanation.
It is almost equally fascinating to hear Shakespeare saying, “The sons of Edward sleep in Abraham’s bosom” (showing his familiarity with such passages as Luke 16:22) or Pope saying, “Who sees with equal eye, a God of all, A hero perish or a sparrow fall” (indicating his familiarity with such passages as Matthew 10:29-31). One might expect Bunyan, Milton or others who were writing of biblical themes to fill their writings with such references, but when so many others, whatever their theme, are found doing it, it gives us particular pleasure.
Although it is probably possible to read most of the kinds of literature produced in recent generations without knowing anything about the Bible (and much of it could not be read with interest by anyone who cared much about the Bible), if we want our children to understand some of the greatest literature of the ages, we will have to help them learn the Bible.
He Was Born to Rescue Us
The Bible tells us of the Messiah who was born of low estate, cradled in a manger, heralded by angels, greeted by lowly shepherds and honored by rich wise men. He did all of this in order to come and rescue humanity from the penalty of sin. What He did rises above all earthly comprehension. Two thousand years ago, God Himself became human in order to do for us what we could not do for ourselves. When Jesus became a man, He understood and proclaimed that He was born to rescue. “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour” (John 12:27 NKJV). “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Let us praise our wonderful Savior—Jesus Christ—who was born to rescue all who will accept His offer of salvation. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…” (Mark 16:16).