XX.—FROM THE DIVINE ORACLES TO THE HIGHER CRITICISM.
THE great sacred books of the world are the most precious of human possessions. They embody the deepest searchings into the most vital problems of humanity in all its stages, the naïve guesses of the world's childhood, the opening conceptions of its youth, the more fully rounded beliefs of its maturity.
These books, no matter how unhistorical in parts and at times, are profoundly true. They mirror the evolution of man's loftiest aspirations, hopes, loves, consolations, and enthusiasms; his hates and fears; his views of his origin and destiny; his theories of his rights and duties; and these not merely in their lights but in their shadows. Therefore it is that they contain the germs of truths most necessary in the evolution of humanity, and give to these germs the environment and sustenance which best insure their growth and strength.
With wide differences in origin and character, all this sacred literature has been developed and has exercised its influence in obedience to certain general laws. First of these in time, if not in importance, is that which governs its origin: in all civilizations we find that the Divine Spirit working in the mind of man shapes his sacred books first of all out of the chaos of myth and legend, and of these books, when life is thus breathed into them, the fittest survive.
So broad and dense is this atmosphere of myth and legend en-