So, Now What?
The Thanksgiving holiday has passed – the first of two Christian holidays nationally established by Congress back in 1870 (the other was ). Today, there is not much organized religious activity to fill the five weeks between these two national celebrations, but in 1944, made an excellent recommendation worth following today:
I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures during the period from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas. . . . [G]o to . . . the Scriptures for a renewed and strengthening contac t with those eternal truths and majestic principles which have inspired such measure of true greatness as this nation has achieved.While the five week period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the focus of this particular email, it is still worth noting that many presidents before Roosevelt similarly urged Americans to delve into the Bible – including President Zachary Taylor, who declared:
The Bible is the best of books and I wish it were in the hands of everyone. It is indispensable to the safety and permanence of our institutions. . . . Especially should the Bible be placed in the hands of the young. It is the best school book in the world. . . . I would that all of our people were brought up under the influence of that Holy Book.And Daniel Webster had earlier affirmed:
To the free and universal reading of the Bible . . . men [are] much indebted for right views of civil liberty. The Bible is . . . a book which teaches man his own individual responsibility, his own dignity, and his equality with his fellow man.And well before Daniel Webster, the Founding Fathers had declared the same:
The Bible is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed. Patrick Henry
For nearly half a century, I have anxiously and critically studied the Bible and I still scarcely ever take it up that I do not find something new. Were you to ask me to recommend the most valuable book in the world, I should fix on the Bible as the most instructive both to the wise and the ignorant. Were you to ask me for one book affording the most rational and pleasing entertainment to the enquiring mind, I would still stay the Bible. And should you ask again about the best philosophy, or the most interesting history, I would still urge you to look into your Bible. I would make it, in short, the alpha and omega of knowledge.
The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts. John Jay
Suppose a nation in some distant region should take the Bible for their only law book and every member should regulate his conduct by the precepts there exhibited . . . What a Utopia! – What a paradise would this region be! John Adams
So significant was the Bible to America's greatest statesmen that many of them committed themselves to reading through the Bible from cover to cover once every year. For example, John Quincy Adams stated: is the chief moral cause of all that is good and the best corrector of all that is evil in human society. . . . All of the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from them despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.
The first and almost the only book deserving of universal attention is the Bible. I have myself for many years made it a practice to read the Bible once every year. I have always endeavored to read it with the same spirit and with the same temper of mind which I now recommend to you. That is, with the intention and desire that it may contribute to my advance in wisdom and virtue.Considering this background, right now – that is, the next five weeks – is the perfect time to begin doing exactly as President Roosevelt recommended:
"I suggest a nationwide reading of the Holy Scriptures during the period from Thanksgiving Day to Christmas."Urge those in your family, church, business, youth group, school, or whatever, to take the Roosevelt Challenge: regularly delve into the Bible from now unto Christmas.
By the way, if you have never read through the complete Bible and are wondering which version of the Bible to read, perhaps a recommendation made by John Quincy Adams in 1817 may be useful to you. When asked the version he preferred, he replied:
You ask me what Bible I take as the standard of my faith. I answer, any Bible that I can read and understand.Indeed, select a version that you "can read and understand." And if you are further wondering just how to go about reading the complete Bible in a year, let us recommend the One-Year Bible a full Bible divided up into 365 daily readings. (The One Year Bible is available in all major so that you can select the one you can best " read and understand.")
Give yourself an early Christmas gift – commit to read through the Bible in the next twelve months; and encourage those around you to do the same. By so doing, you will be giving yourself a gift that truly keeps on giving!