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this whole as “Wisdom.' Ecclesiastes marks the point where, for the first time, reflective analysis has been turned upon the sum of things : the sudden responsibility becomes too great, and philosophy breaks down in despair. The word “wisdom' now becomes confined for the most part to lesser achievements, or to the observing faculty; the universal is no longer a unity that can be adored, but a broken * All things,' the attempt to understand which is .vanity.' There is an advance from this position in the latest of the books of wisdom, the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon. Here philosophy recovers its tone of rapture; the recovery is made, not by returning to the restricted area of observation, but by still further enlarging it. The Preacher had considered only this life; his successor recognizes a life beyond the grave, and in immortality finds a solution of present mysteries. Whereas the Preacher had confined himself to the present, the new wisdom adds the past of history, and presents Wisdom as Providence. And a single passage — where however the topic is only raised, and not followed into detail - shows that this close of Wisdom literature extends its observation even from human life to external nature. Thus these four - Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, Ecclesiastes and Wisdom of Solomon — make a distinct progression of thought. And somewhere in this line of thought - it is needless to discuss exactly where comes the remaining work of Wisdom literature, the Book of Fob. Here again it is the universe as a whole which is
under consideration, or at least, its leading problem, the Mystery of Evil. And here not one but several attitudes of mind in reference to this central problem are represented, and embodied in different dramatic characters, while their discussion of the mystery undergoes the development that belongs to dramatic plot.
These Books of Wisdom make up the present series. "The Modern Reader's Bible' does not touch matters of devotion or theology. Its purpose is to put forward biblical works as portions of World Literature, with an interest of their own for every variety of reader. But if they are to be so appreciated, it is necessary that they should be stripped of the mediæval and anti-literary form in which our current Bibles allow them to be obscured; more particularly of the pointless divisions into chapters, and monotonous numbering of verses, under which all literary structure lies buried. Nor does this series profess to deal with questions of historic criticism which are so rife at the present time. From their own point of view these questions are of high consequence. But to literature considered only as literature it is the opinion of the present editor that the importance of dates and historic setting has been immensely over-estimated, while considerations of authorship have more often proved a disturbance than a help. It is the more transient productions of literature that stand in need of such adventitious interest; the world's masterpieces, while of course they are capable of additional illumination from every source, yet if left to themselves appeal to every people and every age. And such considerations apply with special force to the works contemplated in such a series as this; works in the historic discussion of which scholarship of equal eminence can be cited as pronouncing with equal positiveness on opposite sides of irreconcilable alternatives; while merely to state accurately the position of authorities makes a bulk of discussion sufficient to crowd out the thing discussed.
The Proverbs, which is the subject of the present volume, is a Miscellany of Wisdom in five books. Four of these are various collections of the isolated proverbs and sayings; the first book contains Poems on Wisdom in general. It may be well for the reader to know beforehand what is the matter and form of the literature he is to encounter.
To speak first of the proverbs themselves. Their fundamental topic is the world controversy between good and evil, wisdom and folly; both the antagonism itself and the judgment that is to decide between them. This judgment is not that which the prophets sometimes paint a great Day of the Lord in which the whole earth is doomed, but a continual judgment, going on at all periods and in every individual life, by which the evil are constrained to bow before the good. Even the righteous are to be recompensed in the earth: how much more the wicked and the sinner. As certainly as the Lord hath made everything for its own end, so certainly the wicked have been made for the day of evil. Doubts on the subject of this unerring judgment, such as dominate Fob and Ecclesiastes, and disturb even the faith of Asaph, appear only in the faintest manner in this work, in the form of a few precepts against the envying of sinners. So pronounced is the victory of good in early proverbs that they have been called utilitarian. Certainly their language can be read in a utilitarian sense, but I doubt if this expresses their spirit; they are philosophical, not protreptical, and their purpose is not to bribe with offers of advantage, but to exclaim against the folly of thinking that there could be any path towards advantage except through right doing.
With this thought of the struggle between good and evil for the foundation of their creed, it is natural that the wise should give prominence to the topic of reproofs and chastening: the wise reproof upon the obedient ear like an earring of gold, the chastening a child with a rod to save him from Sheol, the faithful wounds of a friend contrasting with the profuse kisses of an enemy. Similarly, righteousness and success being inseparable, another prominent topic becomes the virtues that make for success and the vices that hinder it. Such vices the proverbs display as the slack hand, or the lack of enterprise that thinks of the clean crib instead of the increase which the strength of oxen will bring, or the talk of the lips leading to penury, or the borrowing that brings with it slavery to the lender. But the chief scorn of the wise men is reserved for the sluggard: who roasteth not the food he took in hunting, who burieth his hand in the dish and will not so much as bring it to his mouth; his way is a perpetual hedge of thorns while other men are walking in a high way; as a son he is found sleeping in harvest time, as a messenger he is vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes of those who have sent him; at every call to action there seems a lion in the streets; with the mechanical motion of a swinging door he turns about on his bed, craving a little more slumber, until his drowsiness brings him to rags, or poverty springs upon him like an armed robber. And all the while he is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.
The proverbs treat conduct in general, denouncing chiefly such evils as belong to a simple state of society: the dishonesty of the false balance and divers weights, revenge and hasty strife, gluttony and intemperance in wine. There is a hint of conflict between religion and morality in the precept against vowing rashly and afterwards making enquiry. The New Testament command to love an enemy is taken from the Book of Proverbs, though the Sermon on the Mount associates it with a higher motive. It is not surprising that in the sayings of the wise a special prominence should be given to the wisdom of the lips. He kisseth the lips, they say, that