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Beacon Lights of History (World Cultural Heritage Library)

Lord, John

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Excerpt: ...a logical sequence from the first idea,-the right of private judgment, religious liberty, call it what you will; a great inspiration which in after times was destined to march triumphantly over battle-fields, and give dignity and power to the people, and lead to the reception of great truths obscured by priests for one thousand years; the motive of an irresistible popular progress, planting England with Puritans, and Scotland with heroes, and France with martyrs, and North America with colonists; yea, kindling a fervid religions life; creating such men as Knox and Latimer and Taylor and Baxter and Howe, who owed their greatness to the study of the Scriptures,-at last put into every hand, and scattered far and wide, even to India and China. Can anybody doubt the marvellous progress of Protestant nations in consequence of the translation and circulation of the Scriptures? How these are bound up with their national life, and all their social habits, and all their religious aspirations; how they have elevated the people, ten hundred millions of times more than the boasted Renaissance which sprang from apostate and infidel and Pagan Italy, when she dug up the buried statues of Greece and Rome, and revived the literature and arts which soften, but do not save- for private judgment and religious liberty mean nothing more and nothing less than the unrestricted perusal of the Scriptures as the guide of life. This right of private judgment, on which Luther was among the first to insist, and of which certainly he was the first great champion in Europe, was in that age a very bold idea, as well as original. It flattered as well as stimulated the intellect of the people, and gave them dignity; it gave to the Reformation its popular character; it appealed to the mind and heart of Christendom. It gave consolation to the peasantry of Europe; for no family was too poor to possess a Bible, the greatest possible boon and treasure,- read and pondered in the...

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