I join my hon. Friend David Simpson in saying that it is a pleasure, Mr. Hancock, to serve under your chairmanship today. I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing this timely debate on such an important subject. We talk about a lot of things in the House of Commons and in Westminster Hall, but there is nothing more precious that we could speak about than the Scriptures of holy truth. The authorised or King James Bible has been used under God to change the world, and many, many lives throughout the world, and much more importantly, it has changed them for the better. Charles Dickens said:
"The New Testament is the very best book that ever was or ever will be known in the world."
George Washington said:
"It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."
I wish that many other Governments would remember that as well.
Abraham Lincoln said:
"It is the best Book which God has given to man."
"The Bible is no mere book, but a Living Creature, with a power that conquers all that oppose it."
That is certainly a warning to everyone who opposes it.
In each case, the Bible that was referred to was the authorised or King James Bible. C. S. Lewis said that whenever we use words such as "beautiful", "long-suffering", "peacemaker" or "scapegoat", it is down to the influence of the King James Bible. However, it is not only in the words or the many phrases in our language, some of which my hon. Friend has already alluded to, that the force and influence of the King James Bible is felt, but in the very rhythm of our language-the very way that we breathe and pause, and rise and fall as we speak. Why do we speak of chariots rather than chargers, of swords rather than pikes, of trumpets rather than bugles? Why have such things become our form of speaking? If we researched the matter, I believe that we would find that it is the influence of the beautiful language of the King James Bible.
We simply cannot account for the history of this nation-its culture, society, literature, language, political institutions and laws-if we ignore the contribution of the King James Bible. This single volume towers above every other document that pertains to the United Kingdom, and dwarfs every other document relating to this House. However, those matters, important as they are and as worthy of commemoration and celebration as they are, are all secondary whenever we come to consider this book.
John Wesley said:
"I am a creature of a day. I am a spirit come from God, and returning to God. I want to know one thing: the way to heaven. God himself has condescended to teach me the way. He has written it down in a book. Oh, give me that book! At any price give me the book of God. Let me be a man of one book."
Without apology, and as a Member of this House, I concur with every word that John Wesley said, and I say, "Give me that book! At any price give me the book of God. Let me be a man of one book."
Just as we cannot properly consider or fully understand the history of these islands without taking account of the influence of the King James Bible, so we cannot properly consider or fully understand that influence without taking account of the divine mind behind the book, or of the reason why God bequeathed it to us. It was for not just its great literary value, though that value is priceless; its language, though its language is the grandest yet simplest form of speech in our tongue; its cultural richness, though it has inspired and enthused succeeding generations; and it was not just for good government, though its principles are just and pure. Although all those things are reason enough for the Government to commemorate this anniversary, there is one thing greater: this book lives. It has been burned, but there is not the smell of fire about it. It has been buried, but no man has ever kept it in the grave. It beats, throbs and pulsates with the very life of God. This book sets men free.
This may be an unusual debate for the House, and it is not often that I wish we remembered more frequently where we have come from and the very basis and heart of our democracy. However, this book takes the lowest, meanest, vilest and basest of men, and changes their lives completely. It changes them not only outwardly, but inwardly, utterly and everlastingly.
The Government should unashamedly shout from the rooftops that this 400th anniversary is something that the United Kingdom should proudly commemorate. They should not try to put it into the corner or speak of it silently. I urge the Minister to
"set her mind on things above" and agree with my hon. Friend and many other hon. Members that we should mark this very, very special anniversary. It is my honour and privilege to support what my hon. Friend said.