Kazlitt Arvine.

Cyclopedia of moral and religious anecdotes: .. online

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ness, " where is my mother and my
brother ? Oh, I hope they are not" —
"If," said the stranger, "you in-
quire for Widow , I can only pity

you. I have known her but a short
time ; but she was the best woman I
ever knew. Her little boy died of a
fever a year ago, and in consequence of
fatigue in taking care of him, and anxiety
for a long absent son at sea, the good
widow herself was buried yesterday."

" O, heavens !" cried the youth,
" have I staid just long enough to kill
my mother ! Wretch that I am — show
me the grave — I have a dagger in my
bundle — let me die with my mother —
my poor, broken-hearted parent !"

" Hold, friend !" said the astonished
neighbor, " if you are this woman's
eldest son, I have a letter for you,
which she wrote a few days before she
died, and desired that you might re-
ceive it should you ever return."

They both turned from the cottage,
and went to the house of the neighbor.
A light being procured, the young man
threw down his bundle and hat, and
read the following short letter, while his
manly cheeks were covered with tears.
" My Dearest, only Son. — When
this reaches you, I shall be no more.

Your little brother has gone before me^
and I cannot but hope and believe that
he was prepared. I had fondly hoped
that I should once more have seen you
on the shores of mortality ; but this
hope is now relinquished. I have fol-
lowed you by my prayers through all
your wanderings. Often, while you
little suspected it, even in the dark cold
nights in winter, have I knelt for my
lost son. There is but one thing that
gives me pain at dying ; and that is,
my dear William, that I must leave
you in this wicked world, as I fear,
unreconciled to your Maker. I am
too feeble to say more. My glass is
run. As you visit the sods which cov-
er my dust. Oh, remember that you too
must soon follow. Farewell ! The
last breath of your mother will be spent
in praying for you, that we may meet

The young man's heart was melted,
on reading these few words from the
parent whom he so tenderly loved ; and
this letter was the means, in the hands
of God, of bringing this youth to a sav-
ing knowledge of the truth " as it is in
Jesus," and he became a very respect
able and pious man.

52. The Bereaved Rebuked.

NURSE.— One day when Lady Raf.
fles, while in India, was almost over
whelmed with grief for the loss of
favorite child, unable to bear the sight
of her other children, or the light of
day, and humbled on her couch with a
feeling of misery, she was addressed by
a poor, ignorant, native woman, of the
lowest class, who had been employea
about the nursery, in terms not to be
forgotten : — " I am come, becau.se you
have been here many days shut up in
a dark room, and no one dares to come
near you. Are you not ashamed to
grieve in this manner, when you ought
to be thanking God for having given
you the mo.st beautiful child that ever
was seen ? Were you not the envy
of every body ? Did any one ever see
him or speak of him without admiring
him ? And instead of letting thi.s child
continue in this world till he should be



worn out with trouble and sorrow, has
not God taken him to heaven in all his
beauty ? For shame ! — leave off weep-
ing, and let me open a window."

Ebenezer Adams, an eminent member
of the Society of Friends, on visiting a
lady of rank, whom he found, six
months after the death of her husband,
on a sofa covered with black cloth, and

in all the dignity of woe, approached
her with great solemnity, and gently
taking her by the hand, thus addressed
her : — " So, friend, I see then thou hast
not yet forgiven God Almighty." This
reproof had so great an effect on the
lady that she immediately laid aside the
symbols of grief, and again entered on
the important duties of life.


§3. Historiclal Facts.

In the eighth century, a translation of
the Gospel of St. John was completed in
the Anglo-Saxon language, by the vene-
rable Bede, who was the ornament of
the age and country in which he lived.
Referring to the time of his education,
he says, " From that period I have ap-
plied myself wholly to the study of the
Holy Scriptures ; and in the intervals
of the observance of regular discipline,
always found it sweet to be either learn-
ing, teaching, or writing."

The circumstances of his death, as de-
scribed by one of his pupils, are interest-
ing : — " Many nights he passed without
sleep, yet rejoicing and giving thanks,
unless when a little slumber intervened.
When he awoke, he resumed his ac-
customed devotions, and, with expanded
hands, never ceased returning thanks to
God. By turns," observes his pupil,
"we read, and by turns we wept ; in-
deed, we always read in tears. In such
solemn joy, we passed fifty days ; but,
during these days, besides the daily lec-
tures which he gave, he endeavored to
compose two works ; one of which was
a translation of St. John's Gospel into
English. It had been observed of him,
that he never knew what it was to do
nothing ; and, after his breathing be-
came still shorter, he dictated cheerfully,
and sometimes said, ' Make haste ; I
know not how long I shall hold out ; my
Maker may take me away very soon.'
On one occasion, a pupil said to him,
' Most dear master, there is yet one
chapter wanting ; do you think it trouble-

some to be £isked any more questions V
He answered, ' It is no trouble ; take
your pen, and write fast.' He conti-
nued to converse cheerfully, and whilst
his friends wept, as he told thorn they
would see him no more, they rejoiced to
hear him say, ' It is now time for me to
return to Him who made me. The
time of my dissolution draws near. I
desire to be dissolved, and to be with
Christ. Yes, my soul desires to see
Christ, my King, in his beauty.' The
pupil, before mentioned, said to him,
' Dear master, one sentence is still want-
ing.' He replied, ' Write quickly.'
The young man soon added, * It ia
finished !' He answered, ' Thou hasi
well said ; all is now finished ! Hold
my head with thy hands : I shall de-
light to sit at the opposite side of the
room, on the holy spot at which I have
been accustomed to pray, and where,
whilst sitting, I can invoke my Father.'
Being placed on the floor of his little
room, he sang, ' Glory be to the Father,
and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost,'
and expired as he uttered the last

A copy of some of St. Paul's Epistles,
said to be in the handwriting of this
venerable man, is preserved in the
library of Trinity College, Cambridge.

— In the reign of Henry V., a law was
passed against the perusal of the Bible
in English. It was enacted, " That
whosoever they were that should read
the Scriptures in the mother tongue,
they should forfeit lande, catel, lif, and
godes, from theyre heyers for ever ; and
so be condemned for heretykes to God,



enemies to the crowne, and most arrant
traitors to the lande."

— Of W. de Howton, abbot of Croxton,
it is stated, that he bequeathed to the
abbey at his death, in 1274, " a Bible,
in nine tomes, faire written, and excel-
lently well glossed by Solomon, arch-
deacon of Leicester, and paid for it fifty
markes sterling," or 33/. 6*. 6d. And
in a valuation of books, bequeathed to
Merton College, at Oxford, before the
year 1300, a Psalter with glosses, or
marginal annotations, is valued at ten
shillings ; and St. Austin, on Genesis,
and a Concordantia, or Harmony, are
each valued at the same price. Let it
be remembered, that these sums should
be multiplied by fifteen, to bring them
to the present value of money ; and, in
some instances, the comparative value
would be still too low, as in the instance
of the laboring men, whose pay, in 1272,
was only three halfpence per day, and
who must therefore have devoted the
earnings of fourteen or fifteen years to
the purchase of a Bible. Whitaker, in
his " History of Craven," affords the ad-
ditional information, "that towards the
close of the thirteenth, and at the com-
mencement of the fourteenth century,
the average wages of a man-servant,
with meat and clothing, were only from
three to five shillings per annum ; that
reapers were paid twopence a day ; and
a sheep sold for a shilling ; and thirty
quarters of fossil-coal, for seventeen
shillings andsix pence." Madox, in his
" History of the Exchequer," says, that
in 1240, " the building of two arches of
London Bridge, cost only twenty-five
pounds;" eight pounds less than the
Bible bequeathed to the abbey of Crox-
ton, by abbot W. de Howton.

(d) LOAN OF A BIBLE.— In 1299,
the bishop of Winchester borrowed a
Bible, in two volumes folio, from a con-
vent in that city, giving a bond, drawn
up in a most formal and solemn manner,
for its due return. This Bible had been
given to the convent by a former bishop,
and in consideration of this gift, and one
hundred marks, the moak founded a
daily mass for the soul of the donor.

TUS. — Fust (or Faustus) having print-

ed off a considerable number of copies
of the Bible, to imitate those which were
comn onl)'^ sold in manuscript, under,
took the sale of them at Paris, where the
art of printing was then unknown. As
he sold his printed copies for sixty
crowns, while the scribes demanded
five hundred, this created universal as-
tonishment ; but when he produced co-
pies as fast as they were wanted, and
also lowered his price to thirty crowns,
all Paris was agitated. The uniformity
of the copies increased the wonder. In-
formations were given to the magistrates
against him as a magician ; his lodg-
ings were searche.l ; and a great num-
ber of copies being found, they were
seized. The red ink, with which they
were embellished, was said to be his
blood. It was seriously adjudged, that
he was in league with the devil ; but,
on discovering his art, the parliament of
Paris passed an act to discharge him
from all persecution, in consideration
of his useful invention.

— It is very affecting to contemplate the
ignorance which existed in Europe be-
fore printing was introduced. Stepha-
nus relates an anecdote of a certain
doctor of the Sorbonne, who, speaking
of the reformers, expressed his surprise
at their mode of reasoning, by exclaim-
ing, " I wonder why these youths are
constantly quoting the New Testament !
I was more than fifty years old before
I knew any thing of a New Testament."
And Albert, archbishop and elector of
Mentz, in the year 1530, accidentally
meeting with a Bible, opened it, and
having read some pages, observed, " In-
deed I do not know what this book is,
but this^I see, that every thing in it is
agamst us." Even Carolastadius, who
was afterwards one of the reformers, ac-
knowledged that he never began to read
the Bible till eight years after he had
taken his highest degree in divinity.
Many other equally striking facts migh.
be introduced, illustrative of the igno
ranee of the Scriptures which prevailed
at that time.

the year 1507, in the twenty-fourth
year of his age, Luther entered into
orders, and celebrater his first mass.



In the same year he found, in the li-
brary of his monastery, a Latin copy
of the bible, which he eagerly read,
and soon became aware that many parts
of it had been kept from the people.
This was the commencement of his use-
fulness. What a contrast do those days
present to ours ! If any are now with-
out a Bible, it must be their own fault ;
but then it was impossible to obtain one,
or to ascertain the nature and tendency
ofiii blessed truths.

ignorance which prevailed in reference
to the Scriptures when Luther was
raised up of God to reform the church,
in the besrinninfj of the sixteenth cen-
tury, was indeed surprising. Conrad,
of Heresbach, a grave author of that
age, relates a fact of a monk saying to
his companions, " They have invented a
new language, which they call Greek :
you must be carefully on your guard
against it ; it is the matter of all heresy.
I observe in the hands of many persons
a book written in that language, and
which they call the New Testament :
it is a book full of daggers and poison.
As to the Hebrew, my brethren, it is
certain, that whoever learns it becomes
immediately a Jew."

Tindal, to whom we are indebted for
the first translation of the New Testa-
ment into English, printed it abroad;
and on its making its appearance in
England, the Popish bishops and clergy
obtained, in the year ir)27, a royal
proclamation, prohibiting the purchase
or reading of it. This proclamation
only excited the public curiosity, and
led to an inci'eased inquiry after the
forbidden book. One step which was
taken to prevent the circulation of this
edition of the Scriptures, at once shows
the hand of God in extending his truth,
and furnishes an amusing proof of the
tolly of man in opposing the truth of
God. The Bishop of London employed
a person to purchase the whole impres-
sion of Tindal 's version of the New
Testament, that he might burn them at
St. Paul's Cross. By this means the
Reformer was enabled to publish a
large and more correct edition, " so
that they came over," says Fox, "thick

ciud threefold into England, to the great
mortification of the Bishop and his Po-
pish friends."

Of this purchase the following fact is
related : — Sir Thomas More, being lord
chancellor, and having several persons
accused of heresy and ready for execu-
tion, offered to compound with one of
them, named George Constantine, for
his life, upon the easy terms of discov-
ering to him who they were in London
that maintained Tindal beyond the sea.
After the poor man had obtained as
good a security for his life as the honor
and truth of the chancellor could give,
he told him it was the Bishop of London
who maintained him by purchasing the
first impressions of his Testaments.
The chancellor smiled, and said he be-
lieved that he spoke the truth.

Archbishop Cranmer's edition of the
Bible was printed, in 1538, and fixed
to a desk in all parochial churches, the
ardor with which men flocked to read
it was incredible. They who could,
procured it ; and they who could not,
crowded to read it, or to hear it read in
churches, where it was common to see
little assemblies of mechanics meeting
together for that purpose after the labor
of the day. Many even learned to read
in their old age, that they might have
the pleasure of instructing themselves
from the Scriptures. Mr. Fox mentions
two apprentices who joined each his
little stock, and bought a Bible, which
at every interval of leisure they read ;
but being afraid of their master, who
was a zealous papist, they kept it under
the straw of their bed.

MENTS.— At the request of the Ro-
mish clergy, severe proclamations were
issued by King Henry VIII. against all
who read, or kept by them, Tindal's
translation of the New Testament; so
that a copy of this book found in the
possession of any person was sufficient
to convict him of heresy, and subject
him to the flames. " But the fervent
zeal of those Christian days," says the
good old martyrologist. Fox, "seemed
much superior to these our days and
times, as manifestly may appear by
their sitting up all night in reading o(



hearing ; also by their expenses and
charges in buying of books in English,
of whom some gave a load of hay for a
few chapters of St. James, or of St. Paul,
in English.

In 1543, an act of parliament was
obtained by the adversaries of transla-
tions, condemning Tindal's Bible, and
the prefaces and notes of all other edi-
tions. It was therefore enacted, " That
no woman, except noblewomen and
gentlewomen, who might read to them-
selves alone, and not to others," (and
for which indulgence they were indebt-
ed to Cranmer,) " nor artificers, 'pren-
tices, journeymen, serving-men, hus-
bandmen, nor laborers, were to read the
Bible or New Testament in English, to
themselves or to any others, privately
or openly, upon pain of one month's

A similar act was also passed in
1546, prohibiting Coverdale's as well
as Tindal's Bible.

SWORDS.— In the dawning of the
glorious day of the Reformation, the
Lord raised up the eminently religious
King Edward the Sixth, to engage in
that excellent work. He had a very
high esteem for the Holy Scriptures,
according to which this great work was
to be squared, and which had been, by
the enemies and murderers of souls,
long concealed from their forefathers.
When, therefore, at his coronation, the
swords were delivered to him, as King
of England, France, and Ireland ; hav-
ing iteceived them, he said, "There is
yet another sword to be delivered to
me ;" at which the lords wondering,
'* I mean," said he, " the sacred Bible,
which is the sword of the Spirit, and
without which we are nothing, neither
can we do any thing." And as he
prized the word of God himself, so he
soon restored it to his people ; and that
they might all have opportunity to
peruse the inspired writings, he ordered
a large Bible in English, with the par-
aphrase of Erasmus on the Gospels, to
be set up in every church, in which,
at all times, those that could, might go
and read ; and those that could not read,
might go and hear.


WELSH BIBLE.— Long before the
establishment of Bible Societies the
Rev. Peter Williams, a pious distin.
guished clergyman of Wales, seeing
that his countrymen were almost en-
tirel)'^ destitute of the Bible, and know-
ing that the work of the Lord could not
prosper without it, undertook with holy
confidence, though destitute of the means,
to translate and publish a Welsh Bible
for his countrymen. Having expended
all his living, and being deeply involved
in debt, with the work unfinished, he
expected every hour to be arrested and
imprisoned, without the means or hope
of release. One morning he had taken
an affectionate leave of his family for
the purpose of pursuing his pious la-
bors, with an expectation that he should
not be permitted to return. When just
as he was mounting his horse a stranger
rode up and presented him a letter.
He stopped and opened it, and found to
his astonishment that it contained infor-
mation that a lady had bequeathed him
a legacy of £300 sterling. " Now,"
says he, " my dear wife, 1 can finish
my Bible, pay my debts, and live in
peace at home."

PSALM. — When Alexander, emperor
of Russia, came to the throne, few
Bibles were found in his empire, and
great carelessness in reference to reli-
gion almost universally prevailed. A
high place in the church soon became
vacant, and the emperor appointed his
favorite prince Galitzin to fill it. He
at first declined the appointment, on the
plea of his entire ignorance of religion,
but the emperor overruled the objection
as of no weight. The prince, on his
first interview with the venerable arch-
bishop Platoff, requested him to pom
out some book which would give him
a concise view of the Christian religion.
The archbishop, rather surprised at the
prince's professed ignorance of religion,
recommended the Bible. The prince
said he could not think of reading that
book. " Well," replied the archbishop,
" that is the only book there is, or ever
will be, that can give you a correct
view of the Christian religion." "Then
I must remain ignorant of it : reading



the Bible is out of the question," was
his reply. The words, however, of the
venerable Platoff remained upon his
mind, and he shortly afterwards pri-
vately bought and read the Bible. The
effects were soon visible. He was
not known to be " a Bible reader," but
his manners were treated with con-
tempt. Nearly every one was now
agitated by the threatened invasion by
the French. Galitzin was not so. His
companions were astonished. Was he
become a traitor to his prince ? It was
hnpossible ; his loyalty was undoubted.
At this important crisis, he thought it
his duty to acquaint the emperor with
the rock on which he rested unmoved
at the threatened danger. He request-
ed an interview ; it was granted. The
invasion was naturally the first subject
of conversation ; and next, as closely
connected with it, the prince's conduct.
The emperor demanded upon what
principle he remained calm and un-
moved, in the midst of universal alarm.
The prince drew from his pocket a
small Bible, and held it toward the
emperor ; as he put out his hand to
receive it, it fell, and opened at the
ninety-first Psalm : " He that dwelleth
in the secret place of the Most High,
shall abide under the shadow of the
Almighty." "Oh that your Majesty
would seek this retreat," said the prince,
as he read the words of the Psalm.
They separated. A day was appointed
for public prayer. The minister who
preached, took for his subject the ninety-
first Psalm. The emperor, surprised,
inquired of the prince if he had men-
tioned the circumstance that occurred
at the interview. He assured him that
he had not named it. A short time
after, the emperor having a few min-
utes to spare, and perhaps feeling the
necessity of Christian support, sent for
his chaplain to read the Bible to him
in his tent. He came, and began the
ninety-first Psalm. " Hold," said the
emperor, " who told you to read that ?"
" God," replied the chaplain. '• How ?"
exclaimed Alexander. " Surprised at
your sending for me," continued the
chaplain, " 1 fell upou my knees before
God, and besought him to teach my
weak lips what to speak. I felt that

part of the holy word which I have be-
gun to read clearly pointed out to me.
Why your majesty interrupted me I
know not." The result was a great
alteration in the emperor's conduct, and
the manifestation of great zeal in the
circulation of the Scriptures.

H. Inspiration of the Bible.

LAVV ? — In a city in one of the north-
ern states lived a lawyer of eminence
and talents. He was notoriously pro-
fane. He had a negro boy, at whom
his neighbors used to hear him swear
with awful violence. One day this
gentleman met an elder of the Presby-
terian church, who was also a lawyer,
and said to him, " I wish, sir, to ex-
amine into the truth of the Christian
religion. What books would you ad-
vise me to read on the evidences of
Christianity ?"

The elder, surprised at the inquiry,
replied : " That is a question, sir, which
you ought to have settled long ago.
You ought not to have put off a subject
so important to this late period of life."

" It is too late," said the inquirer.
" I never knew much about it, but I
always supposed that Christianity was
rejected by the great majority of learn-
ed men. I intend, however, now to
examine the subject thoroughly myself.
I have upon me, as my physician says,
a mortal disease, under which I may
live a year and a half or two years, but
not probably longer. What books, sir,
would you advise me to read ?"

" The Bible," said the elder.

" I believe you don't understand me,"
resumed the unbeliever, surprised in
his turn : " I wish to investigate the
truth ofthe Bible."

" I would advise you, sir," repeated
the elder, " to read the Bible. And
(he continued) I will give you my rea-
sons. Most infidels are very ignorant
of the Scriptures. Now to reason on
any subject with correctness, we must
understand what it is about which we
reason. In the next place, I consider
the internal evidence of the truth of the
Scriptures stronger than the external."

" And where


I begin ?" in-



quired the unbeliever. " At the New
Testament ?"

" No," replied the elder ; " at the
beginning — at Genesis."

The infidel bought a commentary,
went home, and sat down to the serious
study of the Scriptures. He applied
all his strong and well-disciplined
powers of mind to the Bible, to try
rigidly but impartially its truth.

As he went on in his perusal, he
received occasional calls from the elder.
The infidel freely remarked upon what
he had read, and stated his objections.
He liked this passage — he thought that
touching and beautiful — but he could
not credit a third.

One evening the elder called, and

Online LibraryKazlitt ArvineCyclopedia of moral and religious anecdotes: .. → online text (page 21 of 150)