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REV. GEORGE JONES, M. A.,
Chaplain United States Navy,
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by
Rev. GEORGE JONES, M. A., In the Clerk's Office of the District Court of the United States, for the Eastern
District of Pennsylvania.
WEST COTT & THOMSON,
THOSE old times of Abraham and Moses are dimmed by the mists of so many centuries, and are connected with such strange events, that they are apt to assume a myth-like appearance, and we find a difficulty in looking on them as real things. Especially has the glamour of our childish fancy in our early readings and hearings of Bible scenes, had an effect to distort them into unreal shapes; and our continuous subsequent reading has helped in giving permanency to those early impressions. The Scripture language is also different from that of other books, and helps to make us treat the subjects as if they did not belong to human life. And moreover, those Eastern scenes are all so different from ours, that a degree of indefiniteness must of necessity rest upon our apprehensions, unless we make an effort which most persons are not willing to undertake, in order to a full knowledge and a distinct impression respecting these persons and events.
Yet it is evident that the value of Bible teachings depends on our having a clear and full comprehension of what is contained in its sacred pages.
The object of the present work is to aid the reader in these respects: first, by offering such exhibitions of present Eastern tent-life as may help to make him understand the peculiar habits, modes of thinking and rules of conduct among those ancient dwellers in tents; secondly, by presenting the Israelite patriarchs as they really were,-men with our instincts, and reasoning powers, and feelings,-mortals, with our earthly stamp except so far as they were brought into immediate communings with the Deity; and yet even in that, never losing their human nature and their distinct individualities : thirdly, by trying to make the Scripture scenes full, by means of the knowledge which libraries and travellers place within our reach, and to make them vivid and present to the reader's imagination,-in short, as far as circumstances will admit, to make them stand out as life-scenes before him.
With regard to the second item in this effort, the writer while at his work met with a paper in the London Quarterly of Oct., 1859, so appropriate and forcible that he takes the liberty of making an extract:
“Here again our aim should be to realize the men as they were. We lose instruction, unless we appreciate the human element in scriptural characters, while we are careful not to forget what is divine in the direction and record of their lives. The more we feel them to be men like ourselves, the more we learn from their actions and their sufferings. Biographical principles ought to be fearlessly applied in the Holy History, just as we cannot make ourselves acquainted with the Holy Land, except after close geographical inquiry. The haze of unreality is in both cases alike undesirable. Nor are the religious lessons of the Old Testament in any degree impaired, because the men of whom we read were homely in the circumstances of their lives, rude in their civilization, and strangely like other men in their motives and conduct. The smallness of the life does not detract from the greatness of the promise, but rather enhances our sense of the superintendence which conducted every step of their history onward toward its conclusion ; just as the smallness of the land involves no dishonor, but invites our attention all the more pointedly to its glorious destinies."