In the Washington Times, there is an article about a Bay Psalm hymnal from 1640 going up for auction and expected to bring about whopping $30 million dollars! It is up for auction by Boston’s Old South Church, a church where Samuel Adams was a member and Benjamin Franklin was baptized. They want to generate money for grants.
Mark Dimunation, Chief of Rare Books and Special Collections at the Library of Congress, calls it an iconic book, showing the beginning of an America that will be a literate country. He equates American art, spirituality, and the written word, all made manifest in this one book.
Nostalgia comes over me when I read about these early books and the people who might have held them in their hands. As a descendent of William Brewster, I wonder if he too has held this book and read its treasures aloud. Also, I wonder, what our patriarchs might have thought about this 5 by 6 inch, yellow-paged hymnal fetching such an extraordinary price. That they are counting the cost of a printed page so high causes me to wonder if they realize the true value is not the date of the printed page, but the words themselves.
When a Christian with pen in hand shares clues to the mysteries of God and His love of mortal man, the devil screams in agony. These words are fingernails curled as claws, dragging across a chalkboard.
I wonder if the bidders realize that these are not meager words written by man with ink of soot and varnish, but a Spirit inspired record of heaven intersecting with earth?
Modern man seems so strange to me, that they admire the discipline and chaste behavior of our founding fathers, paying large sums of money for trophies of years gone by, yet give no room to such discipline in their own lives. The works of these writings are acknowledged, perhaps, as beautiful words of inspired poetry, yet the power within is denied.
I admit that I, too, have times of struggling with the discipline. Not giving God the first of my day, in prayer, in the reading of his Word – this needs to change in me.
The Word of God is written to be read aloud for others to hear, – it is not to be placed with ink to paper and placed on a bookcase. The Word is written to be mounted on the breath, breathed into us on the day of our birth, and breathed out for all to hear. It was never meant to be locked away in bindings of leather, to be an iconic treasure set in an environment denied of oxygen and surrounded by glass.
In Genesis, God spoke into being every thing with the spoken word. He didn’t write it in book, though he did dictate to Moses later so that it could be read aloud to God’s people.
Nehemiah read the Word of God out loud before the people from day break until noon. Even today, the word is written down, so it can be spoken out loud. It is when the Word rides on the crest of breath, that it becomes active and powerful.
It is not the ink and paper bound in leather that makes the Word of God valuable. It is when it is released like a bird out of a cage, that it brings an understanding to the world around.
Having treasure and mementos of a time gone by is wonderful. But remembering that as old as the Word of God is, it is still relevant and powerful and should be spoken out loud, and not left on a shelf to as a trophy. The Word was always meant to be shared, because it is in the giving it away that it multiplies and becomes all that God intended His Word to be.
As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
(Photographs from the National Cathedral in Washington D.C.)
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