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The Highest Example found in Christ
HIS work has not been compiled
for those who have the power and opportunity to be earnest students of the Bible. It is rather intended for those who from preoccupation, or some other cause, have not specially observed how much the Bible contains which bears in a striking way on problems that occupy the minds of many who desire improvement in the social conditions which they see around them.
There are a multitude of people who in different degrees are striving, however humbly, often against great discouragement, for what are called principles of Social Reform. And of these, some who lead hurried lives and read chiefly modern books, may be glad to revive memories stored in childhood and youth, and thus may realise afresh how much inspiration and guidance can be obtained from the imperishable Sacred Books dear to the hearts of all thoughtful people.
The conditions of life vary, the problems to be solved are different, but the principles of justice and truth cannot change, and the same words of hope which have been the mainstay of reformers of past ages may well inspire
The intention has been to indicate the places where these words may be found, to draw them forth out of the mass of other matter which surrounds them, and to place the most striking passages side by side, grouping them as far as possible under certain heads. The historical order of date in which they were written is set aside. Many of the passages might have been extended with advantage, but brevity was important that the book might fulfil its purpose; those who desire to do so can study the context.
The difficulty of such a task obviously lay in selection. It has been said, “You may prove anything you like from the Bible—atheism even, from the 14th Psalm if you omit the words 'the fool hath said in his heart.'"
This work is not arranged with the
object of proving anything at all; such an intention has been studiously avoided. The aim throughout has been to bring together in a portable form some at least of the verdicts both of the Old and the New Testament on the main questions of social life, to shew, alike in time, occasion, and treatment, that the main principles of true social advance are the same for all time. We can never outlive them, they are eternal, whatever else may change. Whether we seek for them among the teachings of the patriarchs and prophets, or dwell on the words of Christ and his followers, the result is the same. Contrasts bring out their force. Side by side with the passages about poverty we have those which shew the duties of the rich and the dangers of wealth—blessings on benevolence and mercy stand next to those on stalwart independence and thrift-peace' over against a 'sword.'
Social reformers have existed in all ages
from the time that there were any evils to redress, any cruelties, any removable suffering and misery in the world.
The important question for each age is: What are the foundation principles upon which the work of those who strive after a higher level of life is carried on ? And there is a supplementary question, which is also of great interest: What have been the writings and the thoughts from which were drawn the stimulus and guidance of those before us who lived and even died for causes worthy, noble, and inspiring ?
Savonarola,* in prison and face to face with an ignominious and inevitable death, brokenhearted at the apparent failure of his life's work, selected verses from the Psalms on Sorrow and Hope, and wrote meditations on them for his followers.
Oliver Cromwell,t training his “ Ironsides,” compiled a small handbook of quotations from the Bible printed in pocket form and bound in strong soft
*“ Sorrow and Hope," by J. Savonarola.
S.P.C.K., 1893. t“ Cromwell's Soldier's Bible," published in
facsimile, with a preface by Sir G. Wolseley, for the army, by Elliot Stock, 1895.