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Sundays. My father pondered the matter a little; and then turning round to the table, sketched off the list of subjects,—or points of belief,--on which the following work has grown up. These he gave my sister and me, telling us to begin with the first chapter of Genesis and see what the Bible said about them.
This list has never been changed, except by the addition of one head, which afterward, upon full trial and consideration, was stricken out again. It stands, in the matter and order of its divisions, just as it stood at first.
Now were we launched upon a delightful independent voyage of discovery, for which we trimmed our sails with great gravity. What a little rag of a sail we had to begin with, to be sure! But with that we went humbly and carefully to work. We were not bold nor presumptuous mariners.
One chapter a day was all we took. We searched that carefully, and noted down with miser eagerness everything which seemed to us to have an important bearing upon any point in our scheme. On Sunday we indulged ourselves with two chapters. Then we compared notes, and sent each other back to look for what either had missed; gave each the other the advantage of her discoveries, her light, her better counsel. And at intervals, in those days, we submitted our notes to the overlooking and overjudging of my father; holding long, very interested, and doubtless very profound, discussions about them.
But by dint of this practice we ourselves grew daily in the power of judging; and not only that, but the skill and the power of seeing too; till by the time we were half through the Bible, we were just fit to begin again at the beginning. And so we did, I know not how many times, starting back from different points in our progress; for still sight and skill grew with the use of them, and the Bible seemed a mine never to be explored. We know it to be so now; and have given up all hope, or wish, ever
to see the last ore fetched out of that depth, and obliged to yield up its treasures to earthly eyes. Many a bit we passed in our ignorance, in the days when we could see no metal but what glittered on the surface; and many a good time we went back again, long afterward, and broke our rejected lump with great exultation to find it fat with the riches of the mine.
That we thought ourselves enriched in the course of this business, was of necessity. The next thing was to show what we had got. If we could, we would have taken every soul through the mine to gather for himself. But as we could not do that, it seemed worth while to set forth our collection; though none can possibly be so good to any one as that he has made himself. "Where the best things are not possible, the best may be made of those that are."
To examine the whole gathered testimony of the Bible on any point, is one thing; and to go take it oneself at the mouths of the Bible writers, is a very different thing. But in both ways two results may be arrived at; the exceeding strength of their united evidence, and the strange harmony with which it is given. Unlike as they were, and very unlike as were their occasions and ways of saying the same thing. Those gentle and scattered rays of truth so many coloured, and so easy perhaps to deal with separately, brought together are an exceeding white light, light above the brightness of the sun."
To go through the Bible as we have gone through it, is like seeing in a vision the Bible witnesses called to appear and give testimony;—and suppose it were by the uplifting of the hand. There is the stern finger of Moses, then the quietly attesting sign of the writer of history; David's hand is on high, with a cymbal in it ; the prophet of Lamentations passes by, covered with sackcloth, and his head down; but his hand is up; Isaiah's is waved in exultation; and there is the triumphing gesture of St. Paul, and
the outstretched arms of St. John. In sorrow or in joy, they are all at one, and so are you with them, before the last has given his testimony. They are all at one, though centuries rolled away between the time when one lay down in the dust and the next lifted his head upon a changed world. Though this "a golden crown had on," and that other was "in weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in cold and nakedness;" though one was "learned in all the wisdom" of the politest people, and another was a prime minister in the greatest heathen kingdom, and another made and mended the nets by which he gained his bread on the little inland water that washed the walls of Capernaum. They all sing the same song; they all know the same knowledge; and they all esteem it with one accord, “beyond their chief joy."
It would be too much to say that in the following work we have always given in each case the whole Bible testimony. I believe we could never do that. But we have gathered all the strong passages that we could find. Except in one or two instances where they out-numbered their importance, and in two or three other instances where the subjects were very nearly bound with other subjects, and to have given the whole array of passages under each head would bave been to repeat more than was needful. It is taken for granted that the student will go from one to the other.
If we were asked how we estimate this book, we should answer with one breath, "Beyond price!" We cannot hope that it shall be the same thing to others. But we believe that it will be very much what they choose to make it. The only spirit to make anything of the Bible, is that of the man who after all was a wise man when he said, “O Lord, my God, I am but a little child !"