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PREFACE.

T

HE title of this book bespeaks its aim and scope.

For years I have felt the need and importance of such a work, and have waited for abler hands to undertake it on a larger scale; but the people want, and should not wait. After no small labor and care in research and selection, I send this out, to meet in some degree å pressing popular want, and to help, as an incentive, to the more comprehensive work which a fit company of ripe and large-hearted scholars should unite to prepare.

Our Bible, as read in the churches and in our homes, is but the record of Hebrew thought and life, and myth ; in part fragmentary, inconsistent and imperfect, yet all to be accepted as true and miraculously infallible, --whether Reason, Conscience and Intuition consent or not,-according to a strange theory of theology that God made these supernatural revelations only to this people for a certain time and then ceased.

The Bible of the Ages is the deepest thought, the highest inspiration, the clearest spiritual light and life of the whole human race, constantly being lived and written, and to be read with free and open mind, and the hopeful thought that richer chapters are yet to come, for us and for those who may live after us; since truth and inspiration are the heritage of humanity, correlated, evolved, and developed into higher harmony and perfectness by spiritual laws, which are the Divine Intent, or " the will of God.”

Keeping in mind our need of the experiences and aspirations, not only of the Hebrews, but of all humanity, my effort has been to select some of the best thoughts from different races and ages. Full statements of systems of religion or philosophy cannot be given in these narrow limits, yet much of their vital and essential elements will be found, gathered from “Sacred Books," from old philosophers, and from later teachers and seers and reformers. Of course but few are chosen from many equally valuable utterances, and whole nations are, of necessity, passed by, yet enough is offered to show the narrowness and absurdity of our traditional and theological education, that only one book called the Bible is divinely inspired, and must therefore be the master of the soul. This education is losing its power, and we want a broader outlook,

“To seek for Truth, wherever found,

On Christian, or on Heathen ground."

These rich Chapters are gathered from this broader field, and will show that truth is not partial or limited, but fluent, penetrative and universal, growing, from within, with the growth of humanity.

Inspiration--the in-breathing of truth-is for all receptive souls, all golden temperaments, all wise and earnest seekers for light and strength who strive to know and obey the laws by which they may win such rich reward. Hindoo, and Persian and Greek, and American, have spoken words noble as the best of Hebrews, and their sayings are mingled with truth and error even as are those of the Prophets and Apostles of Judea.

From the simple beauty of the Vedas, and the wise and wondrous insight of Buddha, to the noble words of men and women of this generation, we shall find proof enough of this in these chapters, and ample proof too of the unity and fraternity of ideas, the identity of radical elements and underlying principles, constituting that Sympathy of all Religions which bigotry and superstition have hidden from our sight, and which the jar and jangle of theological disputes have wellnigh banished from our thoughts. If read with open mind and firm resolve, while proving all things to hold fast only that which is good, they must help to more impartial judgment, to freedom from arbitrary authority in matters of opinion, and to that hopeful and earnest courage which helps to a better future.

I have aimed to use only the best and most authentic and acknowledged authorities, especially in quoting from the older and more obscure writings.

I am fortunately able to obtain some valuable translations of Talmudic and Rabbinical writings, from Rabbi Lilienthal, of Cincinnati, and Rabbi E. B. M. Browne, of Evansville, Indiana. In an Appendix will be found authorities, dates, and such brief explanations as are indispensable.

While the selections from ancient writings are of signal value and interest, the sweet and noble utterances and aspirations of later days, the great lessons of science, and the teachings in our own time and country, on vital questions and opinions which we must meet and use wisely for our better future, justly claim a good share of space. These later teachings will show that, if there has been an “eclipse of faith” in creeds and dogmas, there is an increase of rational knowledge, of intuition, and of spiritual power and freedom, making true the words of the poet:

“ For I doubt not through the Ages
One increasing purpose runs,
And the thoughts of men are widened
With the process of the suns."

GILES B. STEBBINS.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN

May, 1872.

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