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PREFACE.

TRUTH vailed in parables, or presented in fiction, is almost as old as our race; and we see no good reason why the demands of our nature in Morality and Religion should not so use it as in other matters. Some have taken special pains to impair its influence and weaken its power in these directions. We feel very much like saying of this species of writing, what Wesley said of song tunes, when introduced into the Church—“ It is not proper that the devil should have all the best;" and therefore he admitted their use.

Love and murder, immorality and rationalism, are all deemed quite proper in works which make their appeal to the imagination; but those subjects which belong to the highest purposes of life should be ignored and proscribed, and nothing but what is dry as summer's dust should be given for the soul to feed upon! So thought not the Prophets in their lofty imagery and splendid poetry. They deemed even fables, as the vehicles of truth, not unworthy both of their tongues and pens. The parables of “the Trees choosing a King,” and “the Thistle and the Cedar," and the inimitable stroke of nature in the parable of the “ Little Ewe-lamb,” by Nathan, are in point. What are these but appeals to the natural elements of our constitution, which craves and readily accepts of knowledge, entering silently but surely into the inner chambers of the soul as a welcome guest, because in the guise of a familiar friend. We permit Truth thus to speak to us, even on subjects not so pleasing and grateful as we could wish; and we do not think it “ well to be angry” with her, as she comes to us in a form so graceful and divine. Would the pungent and revolutionary truths of the Messiah have been received, or even favored for a moment by the Jews, had he not spoken to them in parables? The “Prodigal Son” has more staple in it for a work of fiction than any one of the kind ever written.

All true representations of life are profitable and good, and all caricatures dissonant and worthless; and it is a matter of but small consideration what the nature of the channels through which they flow, or the forms they take in reaching the mind.

The Poet is older than all Art, and is but little affected by it. The materials with which he works are of God, and must endure. He does not create, he only combines. When he seizes upon great principles and delineates them; when he presents finer types of humanity than the world has yet seen, and seeks for deeper harmonies in our being than the world has yet breathed, the ideal conceptions are not without their archetypes. They look back to an original matrix, in which the image of God was found; and to Him who was the second Adam, the Lord from heaven; and they anticipate a glorious future in a world

“Of all that is most beauteous—imaged there
In happier beauty; more pellucid streams,
An ampler ether, a diviner air,
And fields invested with purpureal gleams;
Climes which the sun, who sheds the brightest day
Earth knows, is all unworthy to survey."

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