The pre-eminent excellence of Israel’s writings in the literature of power, is natural and necessary. Israel had little originality in any science or art save the science and art of the soul, the knowledge and the love of God. Nature is economic in her dowries. She does not shower all the gifts of the fairies on any one race. She dowered Israel with the highest of human powers, conscience, in an unequalled measure. Providence nurtured and trained this faculty. This little nation became as pre-eminently the people of ethical and spiritual religion as the states of Greece became the people of art. Because of the natural aptitudes of Israel, and of her providential education, we should turn to her literature for our highest inspirations in ethical culture and religion.
Wherein lies this commanding rank of the Bible in the literature of ethical and spiritual power?
Speaking generally, I should say that the superiority of the Bible lies in the fact that it is at once a literature of ethical power and a literature of spiritual power. We have books of high ethical power that are weak religiously. We have books of high religious power that are weak ethically The Bible is strong in both directions. Hence its power. Either ethical or spiritual power alone is defective. Morality without spirituality is principle without passion. Spirituality without morality is passion without principle. Union supplements the defectiveness of each alone, and develops its full forcefulness. The Bible marries morality and spirituality, and these twain become one. The secularities become sacred, and the sanctities become sound.
According to the Bible, he who keeps the Ten Words obeys God. The “merely moral” man is a worshipper of God, though the worship may be silent. In Kant’s great saying, They are always in the service of God whose actions are moral. Virtue becomes consciously religious, as she learns to recognize what she is in love with in loving goodness. As the love of goodness rises into a passion for the ideal forms of Justice, Purity and Truth, it takes on a real religiousness. It may think to stop short in an ethical culture, but it cannot. To feed its own aspirations it must worship the Ideal Righteousness as a reality. Its desires become prayers, its hopes become praises. Even though in mute longings, it pleads
O Lord, open thou our lips, and our mouth shall shew forth Thy praise.
Reversing the identification of religion with morality that is wrought by the Bible, its influence is equally impressive. Religion is not the emotion of man in the presence of the invisible in nature, unless that invisible is felt to be essentially moral. Religion is not the finest of feelings before the invisible in man, unless that unseen is also felt to be ethical. The Natural Religion, however nobly stated, which accepts any form of poetic ideals as