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THOUGHTS AND ASPIRATIONS

OF

THE AGES

SELECTIONS IN PROSE AND VERSE FROM THE RELIGIOUS

WRITINGS OF THE WORLD

EDITED BY

WILLIAM CHATTERTON COUPLAND, D. Sc., M. A.

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LONDON
SWAN SONNENSCHEIN & CO.
NEW YORK: MACMILLAN & CO.

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* If we can regard religions as stages in the evolution of religion, then we kate no motive either to depreciate or unduly to extol any of them. The earlier stages of the development will have a peculiar interest for us, just as we look with affection on the home of our ancestors even though we should not choose to dwell there. We shall not divide religions into the true one, Christianity, and the false ones, all the rest ; no religion will be to us a mere superstition, mor shall we recard any as unguided by God. Feeling that we cannot understand our own religion aright without understanding those out of which it has been built up, we shall value these others for the part they have played in the great movement, and our own most of all, without which they could not be made perfect. In the light of this principle of growth we shall find good in the lowest, and shall see that the good and true rather than the evil and false, furnish the ultimate meaning of even the poorest system.

Extract from "A History of ReligioN" BY ALAN MENZIES, D. D.

"God is not dumb, that he should speak no more;

If thou hast wanderings in the wilderness
And find'st not Sinai, 'lis thy soul is poor;

There towers the mountain of the voice no less,
Which whoso seeks shall find, but he who bends,
Intent on manna still and mortal ends,
Sees it not, neither hears its thundered lore.

Slowly the Bible of the race is writ,

And not on paper leaves nor leaves of stone;
Each age, each kindred, adds a verse to it,

Texts of despair or hope, of joy or moan.
While swings the sea, while mists the mountains shroud,
While thunder's surges burst on cliffs of cloud,
Still at the prophets' feet the nations sit."

James Russell Lowell. Bibliolatres.

PREF A C E.

The present volume is the response to a desire expressed by representative members of South Place Ethical Society, London, to possess, in a form suitable for frequent reference, a characteristic selection of extracts from the literature of nations inspired by exalted thought and profound feeling. The immediate occasion of the wish was the successful publication of a series of lectures, descriptive of widely-divergent phases of religious and ethical belief, delivered before the Society by highly-competent authorities in the years 1888--91, and which had been hailed as the sign of the advent of “A new Catholicity."

The South Place Ethical Society were not unfamiliar with the kind of work indicated. Twenty years ago the Society's Minister, Mr. NOXCURE D. CONWAY, had single-handed accomplished the novel and arduous task of compiling “A Book of Ethnical Scriptures” whose striking aphoristic wisdom and spiritual suggestiveness, in the charming Oriental setting, at once procured for it a place impartially in libraries orthodox and heterodox. The title of Mr. Conway's book, The Sacred Anthology, was, however, of itself likely to be provocative of another and more ambitious attempt in a similar direction. For that work (very wisely, if general interest was to be aroused) with the exception of a few impressive selections from the Old and New Testaments offered the English public exclusively specimens of spintual beauty describable as exotics in the strictest sense. But the Sacred Anthology cannot of course be so limited in scope, its flowerets being necessarily gathered from the gardens of the world. Moreover, research, during the last twenty years, has least of all stood still in matters Oriental; so that the area of the collector has been both widened and more accurately explored.

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