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however interesting and important as theology or history, possesses only subordinate value as literature. It seemed to me, therefore, that a service might be rendered to lovers of good literature by disengaging these gems from their setting, and presenting them in a continuous series. This I have essayed to do in the present volume. That my choice of passages should always commend itself to the reader is not to be expected. Choice in such matters depends on individual taste, and tastes proverbially differ. The most I can hope for is that the selection as a whole should be approved of by the majority of readers, and that, though they may think other passages worthy, they will deem few or none of the selected passages unworthy, of a place in the volume.
The passages are printed, without variation, from the Authorised Version. Here and there I have omitted a verse or two, but these omissions can always be ascertained by consulting the reference at the head of each passage. In arranging the passages I have followed the order in which they occur in the Bible, except when literary or chronological considerations appeared to recommend some modification of that order. I trust that the grounds for all such departures from the traditional order will be too obvious to need explanation or defence.
In the notes I have attempted to clear up the few difficulties which might perplex even educated and intelligent readers. When these difficulties arise from the obscurity or corruption of the
Hebrew text of the Old Testament, my explanations are necessarily given at second hand, since I know no Hebrew. But by consulting standard commentaries and some of the more recent versions, especially the English Revised Version, I have endeavoured to ascertain the correct meaning of the original and to convey it briefly to the reader. I have also put together a few parallels from other literatures, and have illustrated some Hebrew legends and customs from the folk-lore of other peoples.
Apart from all questions of its religious and historical import, which do not here concern us, the Bible is an epic, if not a history, of the world; or, to change the metaphor, it unrolls a vast panorama in which the ages of the world move before us in a long train of solemn imagery, from the creation of the earth and the heavens onward to the final passing away of all this material universe and the coming of a new heaven and a new earth wherein shall dwell righteousness. Against this gorgeous background, this ever shifting scenery, now bright with the hues of heaven, now lurid with the glare of hell, we see mankind strutting and playing their little part on the stage of history. We see them taken from the dust and returning to the dust: we see the rise and fall of empires: we see great cities, now the hive of busy multitudes, now silent and desolate, a den of wild beasts. All life's fever is there-its loves and hopes and joys, its high endeavours, its suffering and sin and sorrow. And then, last scene of all, we see
the great white throne and the endless multitude gathered before it: we hear the final doom pronounced ; and as the curtain falls we catch a glimpse of the fires of hell and the glories of heaven-a vision of a world (how different from this !) where care and sin and sorrow shall be no more, where the saints shall rest from their labours, and where God himself shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. This may not be science and history, but it is at least an impressive pageant, a stately drama: without metaphor, it is noble literature; and like all noble literature it is fitted to delight, to elevate, and to console.
J. G. F. Trinity College, Cambridge,
Toth April 1895.
THE VISION OF THE ANGEL GUARDS
THE TRIALS OF JOB
THE NARROW HOUSE
A VISION OF THE NIGHT