Like Saul of Tarsus before he changed his name -- but not his nature -- the maker of the ensuing search of the Scriptures, born down in the Bible Belt, was bred "after the straightest sect of our religion," a Southern Methodist. Nurtured by earnestly Christian parents, I was heir to their faith and joint heir to salvation with them. Through youth and into maturer years, like Paul, "so worshipped I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets" of ancient Jewry, with the heavy increment for faith of the Wesleyan brand of Protestant Christianity superimposed.
Being so born and taught, so I naturally believed. For religious belief is all but exclusively a matter of birth and early teaching, of environment. A man takes and holds, though often most indifferently, the religion, or brand of belief, of his fathers, of his family. Born a pagan, a Jew, a Buddhist, a Mohammedan, a Mormon, that he remains, except one time in many thousands, through life; though, if taken in infancy, he will as naturally fall heir to and believe the most contrary faith: witness the famous Janizaries, captive Christian children trained in the Moslem faith, and Islam's most fanatic soldiers.
If born into a Christian family, Catholic or Protestant, or of one of the many sects of either, he usually remains, at least nominally, Catholic or Protestant, as he was born and taught. Children believe anything they are taught; Santa Claus, fairies, goblins, ghosts, and witches are as real, as veritably true, to a child as Jesus the Christ to a cleric -- often much more so. It is a maxim of the Master of the Christian faith:
Hence the reason of the
churchly maxim: Disce primum quod credendum est -- "Learn first of all what
is to be believed."
There my infantile mind was fed and fired with the venerable
verities of our first parents and the seductive wiles of the talking snake
of Eden, of Balaam's loquacious jackass, the anthropophagous whale of Jonah,
the heroic adventures of David with Goliath and with Bathsheba, of noble
Daniel, unscathed in the lions' den and in the fiery furnace, of Peter's
walking on the water, and the devils sent into the pigs, with many other
like articles of holy faith necessary to salvation.
That Bible-quoting contest of some forty years ago struck the spark which,
long smoldering, flames up now in this book of mine. In its original form,
written some years ago, the chapters which are now headed "Harmony of the
Gospels" and "Sacred Doctrines of Christianity" reproduced in substance, and
yet do in effect, that memorable verse-matching contest.
In such frequent readings of the Bible, and in more languages than one, I could not but be struck with important differences of meaning given in different versions to the same verse or text; memory, too, would go back to the same story told quite differently in other of the sacred texts; I would search out the parallel passage and find it at right angles or criss-cross with the one before me.
Such adventures roused dangerous trains of thought, which I devoutly sought to conjure out of mind. My honest mind was struck, too, and shocked, by many things which, it seemed to me, were absurd or abhorrent as human actions, and magnified so as the alleged word or deed of my God.
But "he that doubteth is damned"; so faith triumphed over reason for a long, long time, though I felt myself ever a bit less "orthodox" as the years went by, and as I read and thought. Yet so vital was my residuary faith, and so disturbed my conscience over my disregard of the divine ban, "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: ... what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" (2 Cor. 6: 14, 15 ) that upon entering the holy bonds I purposely backslid from my native Methodism, and took the plunge -- on a cold winter night -- into the Baptist communion, in the earnest hope of leading my new life partner (whose family were of that persuasion) into that aqueous fold of Christ with me.
My faith and my chill bath were unrewarded -- then. This book is my tribute of unalloyed admiration and devotion to her whose beautiful character and soul shine out into my life with no pale reflected light of storied Calvary, but in their own native warmth and purity, untinged and untainted by any superstition of unreality. Great now is my reward; our two minds share cordially now the single thought -- always hers:
Faith, I read, "has for its object the unknowable." How could the things of faith be unknowable if they were all in errantly revealed by God in the "Holy Bible, book divine"? I determined to know the truth, if it could be found in the Bible. I bought two copies of that sacred book for what seemed must be the test of truth.
My method was simple and looked sure: from Genesis to Revelation I reread one copy, pencil in hand; every passage that seemed meet for my purpose I marked, noting book, chapter, and verse on the margin of each copy for identification. These sacred and marked volumes I then tore apart, and with scissors cut out every marked passage. Patiently then I sorted the great mass of clippings, putting apart into little piles all that told the same tale differently, or treated the same Christian doctrine at cross- purposes. This accomplished, I read and carefully "matched" one inspired truth with another.
Then, through several years, at every
opportunity which a rather active professional work and frequent absences
from the country permitted, and into the weary hours of many a night,
painstakingly, conscientiously, faithfully, in my quest for truth out of the
fountain of revelation, I carried on the work of creating order out of the
chaos which almost appalled me with its multiplicity and its inconsistency.
The result is here presented; my book speaks for itself. The wayfarer,
though a fool, cannot mistake it.
The Hebraic-Christian God is depicted in plain words of revelation for every word and deed attributed to him by the inspired writers. This God "whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you," truly. This book is simply the Bible taken by and large, and thus viewed in a light not shed upon it by pulpit expoundings of golden texts, or by private readings of isolated choice fragments. Ye bibliologists cannot impeach or refute the truth herein revealed out of Holy Writ
The earnest hope is cherished for this book, that the simple and sincere
search here made of the Scriptures for truth's sake, will serve to make only
theology and religious intolerance vain and ridiculous; that it shame
contending Christians from an unfounded faith in the untrue, and encourage
them and all men into the brotherhood of the only possible true and pure
religion -- to
"Do good, for good is good to do."
Then will indeed be realized the burden of the herald angel's song:
"Peace on earth to men of good will."