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By Passages from the Holy Scriptures.
WITH AN APPENDIX AND NOTES.
THE REV. JOHN B. BAGSHAWE,
MISSIONARY Rector of St. ELIZABETH'S, RICHMOND.
THIS Compilation is intended to assist our children in acquiring a better knowledge of the Holy Scripture. The Catholic Church has always loved the Written Word of God. In the ages of persecution her children thought it their duty to preserve the Holy Scripture from profanation, if necessary at the risk of their lives. Many martyrs suffered death rather than let their sacred books fall into pagan hands. When the bishops later on were able publicly to meet in Council, they placed the book of the Holy Scriptures on a throne in the midst of them. In the public offices of the Church those marks of respect to the book of the Gospels were introduced which we see used in our own days. When evil times arrived, and the new framework of society was broken up, it was nothing but the constant care of the Church which preserved to us the Holy Scriptures. In the middle ages-emphatically the ages of faith-men thought it an honour to spend their lives in copying them. They deemed no amount of time and labour too great to spend in enriching and beautifying those volumes which contained the Word of God. As they had these volumes in their hands, so did they also bear them in their hearts. Night and day you might have heard the praises of God sung in the words of Holy Scripture in a hundred monasteries. Every monk was supposed to know by heart the whole Psalter, and to carry out most literally the precept given
by God to the Jews, "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thy heart: and thou shalt tell them to thy children, and thou shalt meditate upon them sitting in thy house, and walking on thy journey, sleeping and rising" (Deut. vi. 6). Every one, who was educated at all, was familiar with the language of the Scriptures, so that the very words and phrases of Scripture had insinuated themselves into every kind of writing on indifferent subjects. Dr. Maitland, in the lifelike account he gives of those times, tells us that the only way to understand the meaning of middle-age writers in difficult places is by referring to the language used in the Bible.
This shows us what is the instinct of the Catholic Church about the Holy Scriptures. The time did indeed come when restrictions were found necessary. When every artisan began to think it his business to find a faith for himself—and a confusion of tongues was the consequence; when men were "carried away by every wind of doctrine," and the "unlearned and unstable" had come upon those things "hard to be understood" which, S. Peter tells us, they "wrest to their own destruction" (2 S. Pet. iii. 16); then, indeed, the Church found it necessary, in some degree, to keep the Bible from the hands of those who were using it in such a manner as to profane the Holy Word of God and to endanger their own souls. The Church, therefore, made certain wise regulations about reading the Scriptures, intended to direct us how to make them, as the Apostle says, "profitable to teach, to reprove, to correct, to instruct in justice: that the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work" (2 Tim. iii. 16); at the same time commanding and exhorting her children to apply themselves earnestly, under proper guidance, to the
study of them.-Conc. Trid. Sess. 5. c. 1 de Refor. Almost in our own times we find Pope Pius VI. declaring that the faithful should be "excited to the reading of the Holy Scriptures; for these are the most abundant sources, which ought to be left open to every one, to draw from them purity of morals, and of doctrine, to eradicate the errors which are so widely disseminated in these corrupt times ;" and praising those who had put them before the faithful "in the language of their country," and in a manner "suitable to every one's capacity." -Letter of Pope Pius VI. to the Archbishop of Florence.
It appears to me that the present is especially a time when Catholics are bound to have a proper knowledge of the Holy Scriptures and to display a great devotion towards them. The distinguishing heresy of the day is an attack on Revelation generally, and in particular on the Inspiration of the Bible, which ought to bring out a proportionate spirit of loyalty towards it in the Church. On the other hand, the danger to be apprehended to Faith, from an extensive use of the Bible, seems in a great measure to have died out with the decay of the principle of private judgment exercised on Scripture. This principle itself has been weighed in the balance and found wanting. All the evil that it could do has long since been done. The errors to which it gave rise have long since been confuted, so that it now seems more than ever a duty incumbent upon all Catholics to make themselves familiar with the Word of God, and to draw as plentifully as possible from those fountains which the Spirit of God has opened to them.
Of course it is not to be supposed that any adequate knowledge of Holy Scripture can be acquired by reading a small collection of texts; but still I think that children would get a foundation for this kind of knowledge, and