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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

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Unprofessional Sermons         201

tribution to our moral and intellectual well-being as I can
point to our law and say that it is Roman, or to our fine arts
and say that they are based on what the Greeks and Italians
taught us. On the contrary, if asked what feature of post-
Christian life we had derived most distinctly from Hebrew
sources I should say at once " intolerance "—the desire
to dogmatise about matters whereon the Greek and Roman
held certainty to be at once unimportant and unattainable.
This, with all its train of bloodshed and family disunion,
is chargeable to the Jewish rather than to any other account.

There is yet another vice which occurs readily to any
one who reckons up the characteristics which we derive
mainly from the Jews; it is one that we call, after a Jewish
sect, " Pharisaism/' I do not mean to say that no Greek
or Roman was ever a sanctimonious hypocrite, still, sancti-
moniousness does not readily enter into our notions of Greeks
and Romans and it does so enter into our notions of the
old Hebrews. Of course, we are all of us sanctimonious
sometimes; Horace himself is so when he talks about aurum
irrepertum et sic melius situm, and as for Virgil he was a prig,
pure and simple; still, on the whole, sanctimoniousness
was not a Greek and Roman vice and it was a Hebrew one.
True, they stoned their prophets freely; but these are not
the Hebrews to whom Mr. Arnold is referring, they are
the ones whom it is the custom to leave out of sight and out
of mind as far as possible, so that they should hardly count
as Hebrews at all, and none of our characteristics should be
ascribed to them.

Taking their literature I cannot see that it deserves the
praises that have been lavished upon it. The Song of Solomon
and the book of Esther are the most interesting in the Old
Testament, but these are the very ones that make the smallest
pretensions to holiness, and even these are neither of them
of very transcendent merit. They would stand no chance of
being accepted by Messrs. Cassell and Co. or by any biblical
publisher of the present day. Chatto and Windus might
take the Song of Solomon, but, with this exception, I doubt
if there is a publisher in London who would give .a guinea for
the pair. Ecclesiastes contains some fine things but is strongly
tinged with pessimism, cynicism and affectation. Some of
the Proverbs are good, but not many of them are in common