“Learn it meekly on thy knees”

Just last night I came across this poem and found it to be a wonderful statement on how we should approach the Bible, especially the last two stanzas. The fact that this poem was originally written for children will discredit it for some, but such an assessment would be unwise. I am currently reading Mark Gignilliat’s fine book, A Brief History of Old Testament Criticism. He describes key voices in biblical scholarship as they again and again began with rejecting the divine inspiration of Scripture. Such skepticism is usually in vogue, but the faith encouraged in this poem is the way to life and understanding.


O guide my judgment and my taste,
Sweet SPIRIT, author of the book
Of wonders, told in language chaste,
And plainness not to be mistook.

O let me muse, and yet at sight
The page admire, the page believe;
“Let there be light, and there was light,
“Let there be Paradise and Eve!”

Who his soul’s rapture can refrain?
At Joseph’s ever-pleasing tale,
Of marvels, the prodigious train,
To Sinai’s hill from Goshen’s vale.

The Psalmist and proverbial Seer,
And all the prophets’ sons of song,
Make all things precious, all things clear,
And bear the brilliant word along.

O take the book from off the shelf,
And con [learn] it meekly on thy knees;
Best panegyric on itself,
And self-avouch’d to teach and please.

Respect, adore it heart and mind,
How greatly sweet, how sweetly grand!
Who reads the most, is most refin’d,
And polish’d by the Master’s hand.

—from Christopher Smart, Hymns for the Amusement of Children (1771)

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