An appropriate Sunday news-item, one of those useful bits of "grape-vine erudition" that serve to fill in odd corners of metropolitan dailies, declares that "more than 35,000,000 Bibles are printed annually." In the same edition appear several columns of the Grant-Manning controversy, which raises a double query in regard to the status of religion. Of these Bibles, eight million are printed in the United States and Canada; and it is estimated that if all those turned out in the last century were evenly distributed, there would be at least two for every family in the country.
It is self-evident that the market value of the Bible is no indicator of the efficacy of religion. The Bible has established itself so firmly as literature, that its sale would continue even if no one regarded it as the mouthpiece of religion. Furthermore, its practical advantages are manifold: it is a recognized token of respectability for household libraries; it is used, in certain "de luxe" editions, for family records of birth, marriage, and death: it is part of the paraphernalia of oaths in court, and it is issued wholesale by benevolent societies to grace the bureaus of hotel bedrooms and the cabins of vessels of the United States Shipping Board.
Nevertheless, flippancy cannot entirely discredit the remarkable size of this annual production, which, linked with other indications, takes on a real significance. The building of new church edifices all over the country during the past year has been unprecedented. Sunday Schools and Bible Study Classes continue to maintain their enrolments, evidence that the coming generation is being brought up in orthodex paths.
The recent newspaper clamor ever Dr. Grant's "heretical" statements, and the ensuing arguments pro and con, have raised cynical remarks that religion and the Church were going into a state of disruption. Fortunately, these surface disturbances are hardly typical of the whole body of church goers. Religion is still an unquestioned part of the lives of an overwhelming though silent majority of the population. The Church continues to be a necessary function of society. The question of who is right or wrong in the New York controversy is of minor importance. The mere fact that so much popular interest has been roused, and that the newspapers have found it worth their while to give it so much space, is the most encouraging evidence that the public is still awake to religion.