And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lies toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand…
(to young men): — This man with the inkhorn may stand for a class — the whole class of writers and literary men. I would start from the position that the powers of literature belong of right to Jesus Christ, and that literature is included among those things of which Paul said to the Christian man: "All are yours, for ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's."
I. THE CLOSE RELATION THAT EXISTS BETWEEN CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE.
1. One fact that meets us on the very threshold is this, that, humanly speaking, the Bible itself is a literary product. Had there been no such thing as literature there never could have been a Bible; for no one would have been able either to write or to read. As our Lord Jesus glorified the human body by His inhabitation of it in the Incarnation, so we may say literature is transfigured and glorified by this special inhabitation of the Divine Spirit in the books of the Old and New Testaments.
2. But, passing beyond the pages of the Bible, we see again how Christ-loving men have used the powers of literature for the advancement of God's kingdom in the world. In the early days of the Church, Christianity owed very much to the literary gifts of men like and , and . And when we see the great days of the Reformation dawning upon Europe, there is no doubt that we must associate that marvellous spiritual revival with the previous Revival of Letters. Luther was indebted for his knowledge of Greek to those Greek scholars who, after the Fall of Constantinople, came flocking to the West, and who spread abroad that interest in the Greek language and literature which by and by sent men back once more to the neglected pages of the Greek New Testament. And so we see Luther sitting all alone through the midnight hours in his high tower of the Wartburg Castle, in the very heart of the great Thuringian Forest. Before him lies his open Bible, and from the closest study of its pages he is seeking to apprehend the very mind of his Lord. When I was in the Wartburg some years ago I was shown the place on the wall which was struck by the famous inkhorn that Luther flung at the Devil. Luther did discomfit the devil with an inkhorn; but it was by that translation of the Bible which came from his pen, and which is still one of the masterpieces of German literature, and by those other writings which shook the hearts of men like a mighty trumpet blast, and destroyed, in most European lauds, the awful domination of Rome.
3. But, when we speak of literature, we have to go beyond the Bible, and beyond all purely religious writings. We have to think of that great world of books which includes history and science, philosophy, poetry, and fiction. And may we not say that the best books in those various departments, whether written by Christian men or not, are all of them full of facts and principles that really illustrate and corroborate the teaching of the Bible?
II. SOME FRIENDLY COUNSELS WHICH ARE SUGGESTED BY THIS SUBJECT.
1. First, let me put the old apostolic injunction which Paul addressed to a young friend, "Give attendance to reading." All around us there is a great and growing devotion to athletic interests, which threatens in many cases to swallow up all interests of a higher kind. Now, bodily exercise is profitable, without doubt; but it cannot be profitable to exercise the body until we have no time or strength left for the cultivation of the mind. You must read diligently, eagerly, carefully, if you would enlarge and enrich and strengthen your mind. And let me exhort you here to begin to form a little library of your own as early as possible. Do not be content with borrowing books, but have your favourite authors around you in your own room. "A young man," says one, "may lodge in a very small room. But what do you mean by a small room? When I go into a young man's room, and see on the wall a shelf of books; when I take down Shakespeare, or Dante, or Tennyson, or Carlyle, I do not know the size of that room. The walls are nothing, for that man holds the ends of the earth. For every taste like literature, or art, or science, or philosophy, is a window in the smallest room, and through the windows a man can see anything, right on to the throne of God."
2. Next, I would say, take heed what you read. The world is full of bad books, as well as of good books, for the man with the inkhorn, in not a few cases, has sold himself to the service of the Devil. Beware of bad books! If a book fills your mind with evil thoughts, or leaves a bad taste in your mouth, cast it from you at once. Why should a man feed his soul on filth and garbage, when he is free to walk through the garden of the Lord, plucking all manner of pleasant fruits? And, apart from what is positively bad, do not spend too much time on what is scrappy or ephemeral. There are diversities of gifts, and diversities of taste. Provided you confine yourself to what is wholesome, whatever interests you most will be likely to profit you most. But do not forget that the Bible must come first.
3. Let me remind you that, as Christian young men, you should consecrate to Christ all the knowledge that you gain, and should use it as far as possible for the benefit of others. Remember, after all, that life is more than literature, and that Christianity is greater even than the Bible. Mohammedanism is the religion of a book, for above Mohammed himself stands the Koran. But Christianity is not the religion of a book: it is the religion of a life. Jesus Christ Himself is the Alpha and Omega of it, and it is love to Jesus, loyalty to Jesus, the service of Jesus, that are the true marks of a Christian.
(J. G. Lambert, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And, behold, six men came from the way of the higher gate, which lieth toward the north, and every man a slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man among them was clothed with linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side: and they went in, and stood beside the brasen altar.
WEB: Behold, six men came from the way of the upper gate, which lies toward the north, every man with his slaughter weapon in his hand; and one man in the midst of them clothed in linen, with a writer's inkhorn by his side. They went in, and stood beside the bronze altar.