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the chosen people; there is not a hint in these books of Messianic hopes, and in only one place is there a reference to Temple service; there is little said even of a personal God. The wise have, not inappropriately, been called humanists;
but it would be a great mistake to describe their works as secular. The whole is pervaded by a spirit of devoutness; and if there is little discussion of God it is plainly because the idea of God is so entirely taken for granted.
The principle underlying Wisdom literature and giving it its unity may be described by the single word Observation. The prophet rests his message on an immediate Divine revelation: the wise men only claim to have observed life. Modern Science is not more faithful to its root idea of examining details and grouping results than is the wisdom of the Bible to its principle of analytic observation. This same idea of observation gives us a key for determining the relation of the books of wisdom to one another. The earlier works, Proverbs and Ecclesiasticus, give us only Isolated Observations of life; these are reflected in brief proverbs, or in literary forms but little removed from proverbs, and each is entirely distinct and complete in itself. The further notion of the connectedness of all things is not ignored in these earlier books, but is looked upon as no subject for reflective analysis; the wise men approach the universe as a whole with feelings only of adoration, and the philosopher becomes a poet singing of
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 Job. 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 weil 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