The present volume has been suggested by repeated calls from ministerial bodies, popular assemblies, and groups of college students for addresses on the themes here treated. The aim has been to give in concise, popular form answers to some of the many questions thus raised, with the conviction that they are in the mind of every thoughtful man and woman to-day, and especially on the lips of earnest pastors, missionaries, and Sunday-school teachers. There are indications on every side of a deepening and far more intelligent interest in the needs and possibilities of religious education. Its vital importance to the life of the Church and the nation is being understood as never before. Earnest and fruitful efforts are being put forth to improve the methods and courses of instruction. The first essential, however, is a true understanding and appreciation of that Book of Books, which will forever continue to be the chief manual "for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction, in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, completely fitted for every good work." The supreme importance and practical value of the New Testament are recognized by all, but we usually forget when we quote the familiar words of Paul that he had in mind simply the Scriptures of the Old Testament.
In divine Providence mighty forces have been quietly at work during the past century removing false rabbinical traditions and misconceptions that had gathered about these ancient Scriptures, while from other sources has come new light to illumine their pages. The result is that in the Old Testament the Christian world is discerning a new heritage, the beauty and value of which is still only half suspected even by intelligent people. This fact is so significant and yet so little recognized that one feels impelled to go out and proclaim it on the housetops. The Old Testament can never be properly presented from the pulpit or in the class-room while the attitude of preacher and teacher is apathetic and the motive a sense of duty rather than an intelligent acquaintance with its real character and genuine admiration and enthusiasm for its vital truths. The irresistible fascination which has drawn many of the most brilliant scholars into the Old Testament field is a proof that it has lost nothing, of its power and attractiveness. Already the circle of those who have rediscovered the Old Testament is rapidly broadening. Observation and experience confirm the conviction that all that is lacking to make that devotion universal is a right attitude toward it and an intelligent familiarity with its real origin, contents, and teachings. The sooner this is realized the sooner some of the most difficult problems of the Church, of the Sunday-school, and of popular religious education will be solved.
As the repository of a great and varied literature, as a record of many of the most important events in human history, and as a concrete revelation of God's character and will through the life and experiences of a race and the hearts of inspired men, the Old Testament has a vital message marvellously adapted to the intellectual, moral, social, and spiritual needs of to-day and supremely fitted to appeal to the thought and imagination of the present age.
This little volume is intended to be simply a very informal introduction to it. Since of the two Testaments the New is by far the more easily understood and the better known, it is made the point of departure in the approach to the more complex field represented by the Old. Many unexpected analogies will aid in understanding the intricate literary history of the older Scriptures. The point of view assumed throughout is that of the busy pastor, missionary, Sunday-school teacher, and scholar, who have little time for technical study, but who are not afraid of truth because it is new and who firmly believe that God is ever revealing himself more fully to men and that his truth shall make us free. It is hoped that this general survey will prove for them but an introduction to a far deeper and more profitable study.
To the Reverend J.F. McFarland, D.D., of the Bible Study Union, to the Reverend S.A. Cooke, D.D., of the Methodist Book Concern, to Mr. John H. Scribner of the Presbyterian Board of Publication and Sunday-school Work, to the Reverend M.C. Hazard, D.D., of the Pilgrim Press, and to the Reverend F.K. Sanders, Ph.D., of the Congregational Sunday-school and Publishing Society, who have generously read the manuscript of this book, I am deeply indebted, not only for their valuable suggestions, but also for their strong expressions of personal interest in the practical ends which it seeks to conserve, I am also under great obligation to the Reverend Morgan Miller, of Yale, for his untiring vigilance in revising the proof of a volume written within the all too brief limits of a Christmas vacation.