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Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1859, by
W. E. MANLEY,
In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of Massachusetts.
THE author of this volume, has, for many years, entertained the purpose of preparing a work upon the Bible, that should present more rational views of that venerable book, and of the subjects contained therein, than are commonly put forth in other works, having the same general object; and the present volume is an attempt to carry out that purpose. We have waited for circumstances to be more favorable to the execution of this design, till we have become convinced that waiting for favorable circumstances is not the best way to accomplish any important object. We have not had access to as many valuable books, relating to the subjects treated of, as we could have desired; and hence our interpretations are mostly original; but this circumstance, we do not so much regret, when we consider the tendency of writers to rely on other authors, where they have them at hand, and can easily consult them, rather than make the requisite effort to search out original facts, in which case, however skilfully the borrowed knowledge may be applied, the aggregate of human ideas has received no accessions. If, therefore, the present work is less highly valued, (or if it be less highly valuable,) on account of its comparative deficiency in references to standard authors or quotations therefrom, we trust that this lack may be compensated, in part, if not wholly, by certain original thoughts (or what seems to the author to be such, though scores of others,
whom he has not consulted, may have entertained the same) which we have put forth on various subjects we have had occasion to refer to and discuss.
If our views on some topics (inspiration for example, visions, etc.,) are regarded by any as unsound, we hope they will hold the author alone responsible, who would be understood as speaking only for himself, and not for others, either in his own denomination or out of it, who may and may not hold the same opinions. We feel a sincere respect and reverence for the Bible, both from education and from the views we have of its teachings; but our respect for that book does not require nor permit us to entertain views concerning it, that plainly conflict with the facts of its history in the world, and which can be accepted by none but the ignorant and superstitious, and the truth of which would imply a perpetual miracle, as unnecessary as the facts on which the presumption of its reality rests, is untrue. The Bible must be accepted, at the present day, if accepted at all, on reasonable grounds, (reasonable, not in view of a very limited number of facts, from which men too generally form their conclusions, but in view of all the facts having a bearing on the subject;) and if it cannot be defended on such grounds, it will and ought to be rejected.
We believe it can be defended on such grounds, when we regard it with reference to the claims which are put forth in the book itself, and not the claims that men have falsely set up for it. We have been influenced by an ardent desire to give such views of subjects, and such interpretations of texts, as are true and at the same time fitted to restore the confidence of thinking men for the sacred volume, which has been weakened, and in many minds, destroyed, by the false and unreasonable claims that have been set up for the Bible, as well as the interpretations of its contents that are sanctioned neither by reason nor facts.
The plan of this work, is believed to be an improvement on the usual plan of Commentaries, as better fitted for reading, and not less for reference. It is well known that Commentaries are owned by but few persons that, when owned, they are seldom referred to, and almost never read—not that the matters contained therein are unimportant, for their importance is conceded by most persons, not excepting those who never consult them; but because the form in which they are presented is not fitted to make the reading easy or interesting. We expect Dictionaries to be read, as much as we do Commentaries; and they are read perhaps quite as much. Both are useful for reference; and both are referred to—the former frequently, as the occasion requiring such reference is frequent, the latter seldom, since men seldom feel. any necessity for so doing. In view of this consideration, we have sought to make our work a readable one; and though this may be difficult from the nature of the work, we trust we have done something in this direction, if not as much as is desirable. As we shall issue only a moderate sized volume at once, we feel the more confidence that the work will be read; for it is well known that men will read more, when they have small books to read, than when they have large
As we treat the contents of the Bible by subjects rather than by texts, we do not always follow the order of passages given in the Bible; but an Index of passages, in the regular order, will enable the reader at once to refer to any passage he may wish to consult; and the "Table of Contents" is so full and ample, as to save the necessity of any other Index of subjects.
If some subjects are treated more extensively in this volume than is deemed suitable for such a work, and others are thought not to have received sufficient attention, we would simply say, that, in our judgment,
the first class of subjects here referred to, have generally received too little attention in other works, and the other class, too much; and it has been our intention to obviate this objection, in doing which, we may have gone to the opposite extreme or in that direction. Whether we have or have not, is merely a matter of opinion. We have acted according to our best judgment in the matter.
With these observations, concerning our humble effort, we submit the present volume to the judgment and candor of all who respect the Bible and wish to understand its teachings.
W. E. M.