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Mending the Bible

by T. DeWitt Talmage (1832-1902)

"If any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city . . ." Rev. 22:19 

You see it is a very risky business, this changing of
the Holy Scriptures.

A pulpit in New York has recently set forth the idea
that the Scriptures ought to be expurgated (strained,
distilled, purified), that portions of them are unfit
to be read, and the inspiration of much of the Bible
has been denied. Among other striking statements are
these: 1. The book of Genesis is a tradition of
creation, a successive layer of traditions thought out
centuries before. 2. Moses' mistakes about creation
were the mistakes of his age. 3. That there are many
systems of theology in the New Testament. 4. That Paul
had all the notions of the rabbinical schools of his
time. 5. That Job winds up his epilogue in genuine
fairy-tale style. 6. That Revelation is a long array of
misshapen progeny in the apocalyptic writings, tracing
themselves back to Daniel. 7. That Revelation comes To
a madman, or leaves him mad. 8. That what he calls the
abominable lewdness of some things in the Old Testament
is not fit to be read. 9. That it is an abominable
misuse of the Bible to suppose the prophecies really
foretell future events. 10. That the book of Daniel is
not in the right place. 11. That Solomon's Songs are
not in the right place, and he seems to applaud the
idea of someone who said that the book of Solomon's
Songs ought not to be in anyone's hands under thirty
years  of age. 14. He intimates that he does not
believe that Samson slew a thousand men with the
jawbone of an ass. 15. That the whole Bible has been
improperly chopped up into chapters and verses.

He does not believe the beginning of the Bible, and he
does not believe the close of it, nor anything between
as fully inspired of God, and he thinks the Book ought
to be expurgated, and there are those who re-echo the
same sentiment.
 Now, I believe in the largest liberty
of discussion, and there are halls and opera houses and
academies of music where the Bible and Christianity may
be assaulted without interruption; but when a minister
of the Gospel surrenders the faith of any denomination,
his first plain, honest duty is to get out of it. What
would you think of the clerk in a dry-goods store or a
factory or a baking-house, who should go to criticizing
the books of the firm and denouncing the behavior of
the firm, still taking the salary of that firm and the
support of that firm, and doing all his denunciation of
the books of the firm under its cover? Certainly, a
minister of the Gospel ought to be as honest with his
denomination as a dry-goods clerk is honest with his

The heinousness of finding fault with the Bible at this
time by a Christian minister is most evident. In our
day the Bible is assailed by scurrility, by
misrepresentation, by infidel scientist, by all the
vice of earth and all the venom of perdition, and at
this particular time ministers of religion fall into
line of criticism of the Word of God. Why, it makes me
think of a ship in a September equinox, the waves
dashing to the top of the smokestack, and the hatches
fastened down and many prophesying the foundering of
the steamer, and at that time some of the crew with
axes and saws go down into the hold of the ship and try
to saw off some of the planks and pry out some of the
timbers because the timber did not come from the right
forest! It does not seem commendable business for the
crew to be helping the winds and storms outside with
their axes and saws inside.

Now this old Gospel ship, (what with the roaring of
earth and Hell around the stem and stern, and mutiny on
deck,) is having a very rough voyage, but I have
noticed that not one of the timbers has started, and
the Captain says He will see it through. And I have
noticed that keelson and counter-timber knee are built
out of Lebanon cedar, and she is going to weather the
gale, but no credit to those who make mutiny on deck.

When I see ministers of religion in this particular day
finding fault with the Scriptures, it makes me think of
a fortress terrifically bombarded, and the men on the
ramparts, instead of swabbing out and loading the guns
and helping fetch up the ammunition from the magazine,
are trying with crowbars to pry out from the wall
certain blocks of stone, because they did not come form
the right quarry. Oh, men of the ramparts, better fight
back and fight down the common enemy, instead of trying
to make breaches in the wall.
 While I oppose this expurgation
of the Scriptures, I shall give you my reasons for such
opposition. "What!" say some of the theological
evolutionists, whose brains have been addled by too
long brooding over them by Darwin and Spencer, "you
don't now really believe all the story of the Garden of
Eden, do you?" Yes, as much as I believe all the roses
that were in my garden last summer.

"But," say they, "you don't really believe that the sun
and moon stood still?" Yes, and if I had strength
enough tom create a sun and moon, I could make them
stand still, or cause the refraction of the sun's rays
so it would appear to stand still.

"But," they say, "you don't really believe that the
whale swallowed Jonah?" Yes, and if I were stong enough
to make a whale, I could have made very easy ingress
for the refractory tenant.

"But," say they, " you don't really believe that the
water was turned into wine?" Yes, just as easily as
water now is often turned into wine with a mixture of
strychnine and logwood!

"But," say they, "you don't really believe that Samson
slew a thousand with the jawbone of an ass?" Yes, as I
think that the man who in this day assults the Bible is
wielding the same weapon!

There is nothing in the Bible that staggers me. There
are many things I do not understand, I do not pretend
to understand, never shall in this world understand.
But that would be a very poor God who could be fully
understood y the human. That would be a very small
Infinite that can be measured by the finite. You must
not expect to weigh the thunderbolts of Omnipotence in
an apothecary's balances. Starting with the idea that
God can do anything., and that He was present at the
beginning, and that He is present now, there is nothing
in the Holy Scriptures to arouse skepticism in my
heart. Here I stand, a fossil of the ages, dug up from
the tertiary formation, fallen off the shelf of an
antiquarian, a man in the latter part of the glorious
nineteenth century, believing in a whole Bible from lid
to lid.
 I am opposed to the expurgation of the Scriptures
in the first place because the Bible in its present
shape has been so miraculously preserved. Fifteen
hundred years after Herodotus wrote his history, there
was only one manuscript copy of it. Twelve hundred
years after Plato wrote his book, there was only one
manuscript copy of it. God was so carful to have us
have the Bible in just the right shape, that we have
fifty manuscript copies of the New Testament a thousand
years old, and many of them fifteen hundred years old.
This Book, handed down from the time of Chirist, or
just after the time of Christ, by the hand of such men
as Origen in the second century, and Tertullian in the
third century - men of different ages who died for
their principles. The three best copies of the New
Testament in manuscript in the possession of three
great churches - the Protestant Church of England, the
Greek Church of St. Pertesburg, and the Romish Church
of Italy.

It is a plain matter of history that Tischendorf went
to a convent in the peninsula of Sinai, and was by
ropes lifted over the wall into the convent, that being
the only mode of admission and that he saw there in the
wastebasket for kindling for the fires a manuscript of
the holy Scriptures. That night he copied many of the
passages of that Bible, but it was not until fifteen
years had passed of earnest entreaty and prayer and
coaxing and purchase on his part that that copy of the
Holy Scriptures was put into the hands of the Emperor
of Russia - that one copy so marvelously protected.

Do you not know that the catalog of the books of the
Old and New Testaments, as we have it, is the same
catalog that has been coming on down through the ages?
Thirty-nine books of the Old Teatament thousands of
years ago. Thirty-nine now. Twenty-seven books of the
New Testament, sixteen hundred years ago. Twenty-seven
now. Marcion, for wickedness, was turned out of the
Church in the second century, and in his assult on the
Bible and Christianity, he incidentally gives a catalog
of the Books of the Bible - that catalog corresponds
exactly with ours - testimony given by the enemy of the
Bible and the enemy of Christianity. The catalog now,
just like the catalog then. Assulted and spit on and
torn to pieces and burned, yet adhering. The Book
today, in three hundred languages, confronting
four-fifths of the human race in their own tongue,.
Three hundred million copiies of it in existence. Does
not that look as if this Book had been divinely
protected, as if God had guarded it all through t he

Not only have all the attempts to detract from the Book
failed, but all the attempts to add to it. Many
attempts were made to add the apocryphal books to the
Old Testament. The Council of Trent, the Synod of
Jerusalem, the bishops of Hippo all decided that the
apocryphal books must be added to the Old Testament.
"They must stay in," said those learned men, but they
stayed out. There is not an intelligent Christian man
that today will put the book of Maccabees or the book
of Judith beside the book of Isaiah or Romans. Then a
great many said, "We must have books added to the New
Testament," and there were epistles and gospels and 
apocalypses written and added to the New Testament, but
they have all fallen out. You cannot add anything. You
cannot subtract anything. Divinely protected book in
the present shape. Let no man dare to lay his hands on
it with the intention of detracting from the Book or
casting out any of these holy pages.
 I am also opposed to this proposed expurgation of
the Scriptures for the fact that in proportion as
people become self-sacrificing and good and holy and
consecrated, they like the Book as it is. I have yet to
find a man or a woman distinguished for self-sacrifice,
for consecration to God, for holiness of life, who
wants the Bible changed. Many of us have inherited
family Bibles. Those Bibles were in use twenty, forty,
fifty, perhaps a hundred years in the generations. This
afternoon when you go home, take down those family
Bibles and find out if there are any chapters which
have been erased by lead pencil or pen, and if in any
margin you can find the words, "This chapter not fit to
read." There has been plenty of opportunity during the
last half century privately to expurgate the Bible. Do
you know any case of such expurgation? Did not your
grandfather give it to your father, and did not your
father give it to you?

Expurgate the Bible! You might as well go to the old
picture galleries in Dresden and in Venice and in Rome
and expurgate the old paintings. Perhaps you could find
a foot of Michel Angelo's "Last Judgement" that might
be improved. Perhaps you could throw more expression
into Raphael's "Madonna." Perhaps you could put more
pathos into Rubens' "Descent from the Cross." Perhaps
you could change the crests of the waves in Turner's
"Slave Ship." Perhaps you might go into the old
galleries of sculptures and change the forms and
postures of the statues of Phidias and Praxiteles. Such
an iconclast would very soon find himself in the
penitentiary. But  it is worse vandalism when a man
purposes to refashion these masterpieces of inspiration
and to remodel the moral giants of this gallery of God.
Now let us divide off. Let those people who do not believe the Bible and who are critical of this and that part of it, go clear over to the other side. Let them stand behind the Devil's guns. There can be no compromise between infidelity and Christianity. Give us the out-and-out opposition of infidelity rather that the work of these hybrid theologians, these mongrel ecclesiatics, these half-and-half evoluted pulpiteers who believe the Bible and don't believe it, who accept the miracles and do not accept them, who believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures and do not believe in the inspiration of the Scriptures - trimming their belief on one side to suit the skepticism of the world, trimming their belief on the other side to suit the pride of their own heart and feeling that in order to demonstrate their courage they must make the Bible a target, and shoot at God.

There is one thing that encourages me very much
and that is that the Lord made out to manage the
universe before they were born, and will probably be
able to make out to manage the universe a little while
after they are dead. While I demand that the
antagonists of the Bible and the critics of the Bible
go clear over where they belong, on the Devil's side, I
ask all the friends of this good Book to come out
openly and aboveboard in behalf of it. That Book, which
was the best inheritance you ever received from your
ancestry, and which will be the best legacy you will
leave to your children when you bid them goodby as you
cross the ferry to the Golden City. 


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