This theory of our Bible is, in our age, seen to be the same theory which all peoples have entertained of their bibles.
For the first time in the history of Europe, Christian people have the knowledge by which they can correct their ideas about the Bible, in what may be called a comparative science of Bibliolatry. We know that nearly every race has had its own Sacred Book. These Sacred Books are now within the easy reach of all. Any one can examine for himself the Vedas, the Zend-Avesta and the other Bibles of humanity. Every one can readily form a just judgment of these Bibles. The light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world shines from many pages in all of these books. There are profound thoughts of God, noble ethical ideals, deep perceptions of sin, yearning desires for human good, gleams of life beyond the grave. There are prayers we could use here with a few verbal changes, and you would not recognize their pagan source. There are songs of praise which might be made our canticles. There are parables that the Master Himself might have spoken. But the light which shines from heaven through these books does not disguise their earthly character. Having no glamor of tradition over our eyes, we can see them to be histories, poems, philosophies, rituals, counsels of religion, hallowed by age into Sacred Books.
Yet we find precisely the same notions current in each race about its Bible that we have cherished concerning our own Bible. The Hindu talks of his Vedas as the Christian talks of his Testaments. Nay, we find our conceits quite outdone in the dogmas of these heathen. Mohammedan doctors of divinity divided into fiercely contesting parties over the question whether the Koran was created or uncreated; the latter theory, as most highly magnifying their Sacred Book, of course, becoming the orthodox doctrine. These learned orthodox divines assured men that the Koran was verily eternal and uncreated, and of the very essence of God; that the first transcript of it had been from everlasting by His throne; that a copy, in one volume, on paper, was, by the hands of the angel Gabriel, sent down to the lowest heaven in the month of Ramadan; from whence Gabriel revealed it to Mohammed in instalments, giving him the privilege, however, of beholding the heavenly volume, bound in silk and adorned with gold and precious stones, once a year.
We cannot mistake the fact that thoroughly human writings have been exaggerated into super-human scriptures by the deference rightly called forth towards these venerable books, so influential in the histories of nations, so potent in the lives of men; and we can study the phases through which a wholesome reverence degenerated into a puerile superstition.
Bibliolatry is pushed to a reductio ad absurdum in these pagan worships of their Sacred Books. Men will see their folly in the reflected light of these kindred follies, and another superstition will disappear from Christendom.