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A Study of the King James Version of the Bible

Lecture 5
THE KING JAMES VERSION--ITS INFLUENCE ON ENGLISH AND AMERICAN
HISTORY
THE King James version of the Bible is only a book. What can a book do in
history? Well, whatever the reason, books have played a large part in the
movements of men, specially of modern men.
They have markedly influenced the opinion of men about the past. It is commonly
said that Hume's History of England, defective as it is, has yet "by its method
revolutionized the writing of history," and that is true. Nearer our own time,
Carlyle's Life of Cromwell reversed the judgment of history on Cromwell, gave all
readers of history a new conception of him and his times and of the movement of
which he was the life. After the Restoration none were so poor as to do Cromwell
reverence until Carlyle's BOOK gave him anew to the world.
There are instances squarely in our own time by which their mighty influence
may be tested. They are of books of almost ephemeral value save for the student
of history. As literature they will be quickly forgotten; but as FORCES they must
be reckoned with. There is Uncle Tom's Cabin. It would be absurd to say that it
brought the American Civil War, or freed the negroes, or saved the Union. It did
none of those great things. Yet it is not at all absurd to name it among the potent
powers in all three. It is not to our purpose whether it is true or not as a statement
of the whole fact. Doubtless it was not true of the general and common
circumstances of Southern slavery; but everything in it was possible, and even
frequent enough so that it could not be questioned. It pretended no more. But its
influence was simply tremendous. In book form it became available in 1852, and
within three years, 1855, it was common property of English-speaking people. No
other book ever produced so extraordinary an effect so quickly in the public
mind.[1] It held up slavery to judgment. It crystallized the thoughts of common
people. The work of those strenuous years in the '60's could not have been done
without the result of that book. It made history. Come nearer our own day. We
could not be long in London without feeling the concern of the better people for
conditions in the East End. A new social impulse has seized them. To be sure, it
lacks much yet of success; but more has been done than most people realize.
The new movement, the awakening of that social sense, traces back to the book
of Gen. William Booth, In Darkest England (1890). It has helped to change the
life of a large part of London.
[1] Rhodes, History of the United States, vol. i, pp. 185-303.
On this side, the new concern for city conditions dates from the book of a
newspaper reporter, Jacob A. Riis, How the Other Half Lives. It thrust the Other
Half into such prominence that it has never been possible to forget it. Marked
 
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