THERE are two ways of reading the documents of religion. In the first place one may read the book of one’s own faith, as the Christian reads his Bible. In this case one reads for instruction or education in some source to which one attributes authority, and finds there the familiar and well-loved symbols of one’s own belief and hope. Such a relation between a man and a book is only possible under peculiar conditions. It is the work of time and tradition and social experience. A book does not become a man’s “bible” unless it has been the principal quickening influence in his spiritual life and the source of his illumination, so that he returns to it when he needs to reanimate his purposes or confirm his belief. A “bible” is the proved remedy to which a man confidently resorts for the health of his own soul. It becomes associated in his mind with all that he owes to it, and all that he hopes from it; so that it is not only an instrument, but a symbol. The sacred book of any racial or historical religion is, of course, more than such a personal bible, by as much as a race is more than an individual or history than a lifetime. But it is the personal relation, that between a man and the book that has become his sacred book, that I want here to emphasize. It is evident that in such a relation the reader’s attitude will be unique; it will differ from his attitude to any other book. Religious documents are usually and normally read in this way. Each man reads his own bible. And it is only when a document is somebody’s bible in this sense that it is a religious document at all.

All Directories