An excerpt from the 1806 book Beauties of the Bible by Ezra Sampson, which was sold in the Palmyra bookshop in the 1820s. This excerpt is timeless; it is as relevant today as it was when first published over 200 years ago.
That a book of this kind is necessary will be generally allowed by Christians of every denomination, who have thought carefully on the subject. Time was in our country, when the Bible was almost the only school book. By frequently reading the sacred writings in schools. a large portion of the doctrine and precepts of our holy religion was imperceptibly lodged in the memory, and often continued there through life, as the seed of piety, and as a happy preventive to error and vice.
At length, objections were started against the use of the Bible in schools. Other books were introduced, and the sacred writings for several years past, have been almost totally excluded from having any share in school instruction: and by reason of this almost total disuse of the bible in schools, thousands of children have grown, and are growing up in gross ignorance of the contents of that sacred book.
It is an astonishing thought and should be humbling to Christians, that while we have neglected to make the knowledge of the bible any part of the school education of our children, the Mahometans have been teaching their children the Alcoran [Koran] with most diligent care. Will not Mahometans rise up in judgment against us and condemn us?
- * While men slept the enemy came and sowed tares.” Besides innumerable other books of pernicious tendency, it has been asserted that twenty thousand copies of what some have called "Thomas Paine's bible” were imported into this country as one time. They have been distributed over the country, and have been read with eagerness: their poison has struck deep, particularly into those minds which had not been sown with the seeds of religious instruction.
Thus an altitudes have been desperately wounded, not indeed by the paw of the lion, but by the sting of the despicable asp.
- * As we sow we may expect to reap.” If the bible should continue to be excluded from schools, and the religious instruction of children be neglected, the bitter fruits will be experienced in the demoralized condition of all classes of people.
To obviate, in some degree, this threatening evil, is the object of the present publication....
It is further hoped, that some who are not incompetent judges may think this to be an advantageous method of defending our holy religion, and guarding inexperienced minds against the attacks of infidelity. If one should deny that this world were made by a wise and good Being, because of the defects which appear upon it, and the confusion that seems to reign in it, there might be an impossibility of answering all his quibbling arguments.
The shortest and surest way would be to point out a number of the most striking beauties; the marks of wisdom and design, and the displays of goodness which appear on the face of the earth; observing withal, that seeming deformities may be “beauties in disguise.”
Or, if a man who had been long shut up in a dark room should deny that the sun is the fountain of light, and pretend that it had no better title to that distinction than his own glimmering lamp : you would not undertake to confute all his quibbles, but rather bring him out to the open day, and show him the sun in its meridian glory, and let him then compare his lamp with it.
In like manner the most striking beauties of the bible, drawn together and presented in a single point of view, may go further to convince some people of the divine excellency of that book, than a whole volume of accurate and learned reasoning in its favour.