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So that, although Dr. Johnson had not read the Apocrypha, he had read a passage which must have appealed profoundly to him as a man who once said humbly, “Sir, I considered myself as entrusted with a certain portion of truth,” and on another occasion, “Without truth there must be a dissolution of society.”
The Book of the Wisdom of Solomon contains splendid passages. Hear the writer's praise of Wisdom:
Wisdom reacheth from one end to another mightily,
If a man desire much experience:
Thus is Wisdom praised, but now hear Wisdom praise herself in the wild and lofty music of Hebrew poetry through the pen of Jesus the son of Sirach, the writer of "Ecclesiasticus”:
I was exalted like a cedar in Libanus,
Such is the exalted poetry, such the exhaustion of language, to be found in the Apocrypha.
Two Noble Eulogies
In addition, it is packed with worldly wisdom, common sense, shrewd counsels about marriage and friendship, and lending and borrowing, and bargaining, and tact, and everyday prudence. One could show some of our best-known proverbs can be traced to these books. But we conclude by quoting a passage in which the writer we have just quoted turns his eyes—with a charity surpassing, perhaps, anything in the canonical books of the Old Testament—on the average man. After picturing the ploughman, the ox-driver, the carpenter, the graver of seals, the smith, and the poor potter, each at his work, he exclaims:
Without these cannot a city be inhabited.
That may not be the whole of man's civic wisdom, or of his social vision, to-day, but if not it is one of the noblest eulogies ever penned. It deserves to be as well known as that great tribute to genius and leadership in the same book:
The Literary Study of the Bible: An Account of the Leading Forms of Literature represented in the Sacred Writings. By Richard G. Moulton, M.A. (Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons).
Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews. Translated from the Latin of Robert T. Lowth, D.D., 1787.
The Bible in English Literature. By J. H. Gardiner (T. Fisher Unwin).
The English Bible: An External and Critical History of the various English Translations of Scripture. By John Eadie, D.D. (Macmillan).
An Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament. By S. R. Driver, D.D. T. and T. Clark, Edinburgh (International Theological Library). The Psalms in Human Life. By Rowland E. Prothero, M.V.O. (Lord
. Ernle) (John Murray).
Passages of the Bible chosen for their Literary Beauty and Interest. By Sir J. G. Frazer (A. & C. Black).
The Literary Man's Bible: A Selection of Passages from the Old Testament, Historic, Poetic and Philosophic, illustrating Hebrew Literature, with Introductory Essays and Annotations. Edited by W. L. Courtney (Chapman & Hall).
The Literary Man's New Testament; the Books arranged in Chronological Order, with Introductory Essays and Annotations. By W. L. Courtney (Chapman and Hall).
The History of the English Bible. By W. F. Moulton (Epworth Press).
English Versions of the Bible: A Handbook with copious examples illustrating the Ancestry and Relationship of the several Versions. By Rev. J. I. Mombert (Samuel Bagster & Sons).
Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts, being a History of the Text and its Translations. By Sir Frederic G. Kenyon (Eyre & Spottiswoode).
The Building of the Bible, showing the Chronological Order in which the Books of the Old and New Testaments appeared according to recent Biblical criticism. By F. J. Gould (Watts & Co.).
On the Art of Reading. Pages 141-182. Quiller-Couch.